L.I. diocese settles nearly 300 claims of clergy abuse

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St. Agnes Cathedral in Rockville Centre. (Photo courtesy of Wikipedia)

Eleven months ago, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre announced a program to provide financial compensation to those abused by members of the clergy. Since then, 293 men and women have come forward to settle with the church, according to a Newsday report.

According to Camille Biros, the compensation program’s co-administrator, 221 victims have been offered financial settlements while the remaining victims will receive offers in the coming months. According to Newsday, a majority of the claims were filed by men.

Victims who receive a settlement through the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program forfeit their right to sue in the future. The diocese also does not name the priests accused of abuse.

The program is being administered by Biros and Kenneth Feinberg, who has led compensation plans for victims of the Sept. 11 attacks and the BP oil spill. The two handled a similar program that compensated victims for the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn.

“With this program, we are making a major commitment to the ongoing healing of survivors of acts of child sexual abuse committed by clergy,” Bishop John O. Barres said when the program was announced last October.

According to the Newsday report, the settlements with victims range from $25,000 to as high as $500,000. Biros said the program was winding down, as the deadline to apply for compensation was in April, although the diocese would still consider claims from victims who are just now coming forward.

These settlements come as the diocese is one of the eight in New York being investigated by state Attorney General Barbara Underwood over how the Catholic Church reviewed cases of sexual abuse and whether they were covered up.

The investigation comes on the heels of a grand jury report released in Pennsylvania last month. That report found that at least 1,000 children were abused by 300 priests over a 70-year period, although most of the alleged abuses occurred before 1990.

The Pennsylvania report criticized Barres over his handling of abuses cases when he was the bishop of Allentown. Barres has rebutted the investigation’s findings.

Last week, Barres released a statement calling on Long Island’s 1.5 million Catholics to join him in prayer ahead of the Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross.

“We have a unique opportunity to pray for survivors of clergy sexual abuse and to pray for the reform, purification and sanctification of the Church in all areas and in all of her members,” Barres wrote in a letter sent to priests in the diocese.

Reach reporter Luke Torrance by email at ltorrance@theislandnow.com, by phone at 516-307-1045, ext. 214, or follow him on Twitter @LukeATorrance.

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