Bishop Jaime Soto released the following statement today after the joint announcement by the California Catholic Conference and Washington, DC Attorney Kenneth Feinberg that 6 California (arch)dioceses have asked Feinberg to create and administer an Independent Victims Compensation Program to provide material help and support to Victim/Survivors of priestly sexual abuse. The six (arch)dioceses are Sacramento, Fresno, Los Angeles, San Bernardino, Orange and San Diego. Copies of that announcement, an FAQ and related materials are available here.
"This morning, as part of our effort to own and atone for the Church’s failure to protect children and young people abused by Catholic priests, the Diocese of Sacramento joined five other Catholic dioceses in California to announce the creation of an Independent Victims Compensation Program designed to provide material compensation for pain and suffering they have experienced because of their abuse.
"Victim/Survivors will be invited to apply for compensation regardless of when the abuse occurred.
"The program will be headed by Mr. Kenneth Feinberg and Ms. Camille Biros of the Feinberg Law Firm in Washington, DC. Mr. Feinberg and Ms. Biros have developed a national reputation for their fair and compassionate handling of claims arising out the 9/11 tragedy in New York, the BP petroleum disaster in the Gulf of Mexico and for victims of clergy sex abuse in programs underway in the archdioceses of New York, Philadelphia and other Catholic dioceses in Pennsylvania, New York and Colorado.
"Through their efforts, more than 1200 victim/survivors have received compensation in New York alone.
"We anticipate the program will begin before the end of summer, operating on a timetable established by Administrator Feinberg. It will be overseen by a lay oversight panel. Former Gov. Gray Davis and former US Small Business Administration Director Maria Contreras Sweet have agreed to serve on that panel. Additional members will be announced at a later date.
"Administrator Feinberg has said most claims will be paid in 90 days or less. I hope the program will be particularly helpful to persons who may fear going to court.
"Any settlements paid for through this program will come from diocesan funds or insurance. No parish resources will be used, nor will any contributions from the Annual Catholic Appeal.
"No amount of money can make up for the evil done to victims of priestly sex abuse. I acknowledge the pain that was caused, my shame and sorrow that it happened in the name of the Church, and my intention to help victim/survivors heal from that abuse.
"To that end, I ask you to keep the victim/survivors of priestly sex abuse in your prayers. May they know the healing hand of a faithful and loving God."