DENVER (CBS4)– The State of Colorado and the Catholic dioceses of Colorado announced on Monday a reparations program for survivors of sexual abuse by priests. Attorney General Phil Weiser introduced the independent committee that will hear from those victims.
That committee will decide how the victims should be compensated.
Kenneth Feinburg, who has overseen a number of compensation actions, including the Aurora theater shooting, will head the committee. He says for the victims, it’s often not about the money.
“They often want to hear from independent administrators, ‘Yes, your claim is credible. Yes, you were harmed. Yes, it’s a tragedy what was done to you,'” said Feinburg at a news conference on Monday.
The state is also reviewing how the Catholic diocese has handled and is handling investigations. That includes a list of priests with one or more substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor.
The money to pay the claims will come from reserves and assets, not from donations.
The following letter is from Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila regarding the Independent File Review and Reparations Program:
Dear Sisters & Brothers,
As you may recall, last February the Catholic Dioceses of Colorado announced two initiatives to support the continued healing process for those who were sexually abused as minors by parish priests. Those two initiatives –an independent reparations and reconciliation program and an independent file review – will now be fully implemented in the coming weeks and months.
We have spent the last few decades working to address the issue of sex abuse and to make our churches among the safest spaces for children, but we recognize that pain caused by past abuse still needs to be continually addressed. We know that for survivors what has been taken from them can never be fully restored, but we hope these initiatives can provide some measure of justice, validation and healing for them and their families.
REPARATIONS AND RECONCILIATION PROGRAM
This program will be officially opened in the coming days, and information for those wishing to participate will be available on our diocesan websites. A couple of key points for you to know:
• The program will be independently run by a team of nationally recognized administrators and overseen by a local oversight committee of lay people from around the state.
• The administrators will evaluate claims made against diocesan priests, and determine a reparation offer to the victim-survivor.
• Participation by the individuals is voluntary and the offer can always be rejected, but the dioceses are bound to abide by the administrators’ decisions.
• Funding for the program will come from diocesan reserves and assets, with no money coming from donations to parishes, ministries or schools.
INDEPENDENT FILE REVIEW
As part of an agreement with the Attorney General of Colorado, an independent file review led by former U.S. Attorney Robert Troyer is in its final stages, and a public report of his findings will soon be published. We believe this will provide a transparent accounting of all past substantiated allegations and a fair evaluation of how the dioceses responded. The final report for each diocese will include:
• An analysis of the diocese’s current policies and procedures to prevent and report abuse.
• A review of how the diocese handled past allegations, and if they correctly reported the allegation to local authorities according to the applicable state laws at the time.
• A list of all diocesan priests with one or more substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor, along with a summary of the incidents and how they were handled.
As we said in February, there will no doubt be many painful moments in the coming months as we shine the bright light of transparency on the Church’s history related to the sexual abuse of minors, but we ask that you join us in prayer for all victims of sexual abuse, and that we maintain our trust in Jesus who alone can provide true healing and peace.
Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila