HARRISBURG – More details are out from the Catholic Church’s Diocese of Harrisburg on its compensation program for people abused by clergy.
Discussing the Survivor Compensation Program in a news release, the Diocese says, a claimant must have previously identified themselves on or before February 11. However, if a survivor has not previously come forward to the Diocese, those people are asked to apply to the program for consideration for future participation.
The 90-day program runs until May 13. It will include settlements for abuse by Diocesan Priests, Deacons, and Seminarians. It also includes Priests of other dioceses and Religious Order Priests who had faculties in the Diocese of Harrisburg at the time of the abuse. The Diocese says program participation does not disqualify survivors from receiving additional counseling through the Victim Assistance Coordinator and Catholic Charities.
Details Regarding the Survivor Compensation Program:
The Program is intended to provide compensation to those survivors of childhood sexual abuse committed by clergy and certain other persons associated with the Diocese of Harrisburg.
Eligibility for the Program:
A. Claimants eligible:
1. The person is alleging childhood sexual abuse. “Childhood sexual abuse” means sexual molestation or sexual exploitation of a child (a person under the age of 18) and other behavior by which an adult uses a child as an object of sexual gratification, including attempted behavior.
2. The allegation is against a priest, deacon, or seminarian of the Diocese; OR the allegation is against a priest or deacon from another diocese who had faculties in the Diocese at the time of the abuse; OR the allegation is against a priest or brother from a religious order who had faculties in the Diocese at the time of the abuse.
3. The person has previously identified themselves as a survivor of childhood sexual abuse to the Diocese on or before February 11, 2019.
B. Claimants NOT eligible:
1. The person has previously settled the claim with the Diocese.
2. The childhood sexual abuse has no connection to the Diocese of Harrisburg (e.g., a claim of abuse in New Mexico by clergy in New Mexico).
II. Program Administration
1. The Program will be administered by Commonwealth Mediation and Conciliation, Inc. (CMCI), including Paul Finn, Jon Prouty, Brian Mone, and Robert Berks.
2. The administrators will be completely independent from the Diocese.
III. Program Process
A. Claims Period
1. The Claims Period of the Program will run for 90 days: from February 12, 2019 through May 13, 2019.
2. Within 14 days of the close of the Claims Period, CMCI shall notify all claimants as to their eligibility, under the criteria set forth above.
3. CMCI will hear all claims, and make settlement offers to the claimants on or before June 28, 2019.
B. Claims Submission
1. Claims will be made by eligible claimants on a Program questionnaire.
2. Claims will be submitted directly to CMCI.
3. CMCI also has a telephone number that claimants or potential claimants can call.
4. Regardless of whether the claimant is eligible for the Program, any claim submitted by a claimant to the Program that involves a victim whose claim has not been previously reported to law enforcement will be reported by the Diocese to ChildLine and the appropriate District Attorney.
C. Claims Administration
1. CMCI will administer all claims through in-person meetings with claimants in central Pennsylvania, at a venue to be announced. This venue will not be a Diocesan property.
a) Claimants who decline an in-person meeting will still be eligible for a settlement offer.
b) The Diocese will not attend or otherwise participate in the in-person meetings; the meetings will solely involve CMCI administrators, the claimant, and any persons the claimant invites to attend, including counsel, spouses, witnesses, etc.
2. Claimants can participate in the Program with or without an attorney.
3. After hearing all claims, CMCI will make final settlement offers to those claimants that CMCI, and CMCI alone, deems entitled to an offer.
a) The Diocese has no veto power over, or input into, the settlement offers.
b) CMCI will make settlement offers to those claimants that CMCI deems have sufficiently established the veracity of their claim.
c) The offers by the administrators are final.
4. If the claimant accepts the settlement offer, the claimant must execute a standard release of claims against the Diocese before the offer is paid by the Diocese.
a) Claimants who participate in the Program without an attorney must be advised by an attorney about the meaning of the release before the release is executed by the claimant. If needed, such attorney review will be supplied at no cost to the claimant.
b) In all cases, the Diocese must receive a separately executed form stating that the claimant has been advised about the release by an attorney.
c) All releases must be notarized when executed.
5. The Diocese will pay all accepted offers within 30 days after receipt of the executed release from the claimant.
6. Regardless of whether a settlement is entered into with a survivor, counseling services will still be made available to the survivor through the Diocese’s Victim Assistance Coordinator. Even if the survivor executes a release of claims against the Diocese and receives a settlement payment, the survivor can still seek counseling services.
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