New York archdiocese will offer compensation to church sexual abuse survivors

AP

On Thursday, Cardinal and New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan, announced the New York archdiocese would be offering compensation to victims of sexual abuse by members of the clergy.

According to NBC New York, the archdiocese is already taking steps to ensure the new program reaches assault survivors, contacting those who have already come forward with their allegations. Survivors have until Jan. 31 to apply to the compensation fund will have no cap or statute of limitations attached to it.

"One sin, one crime, one scandal has gravely wounded us in the church, the sexual abuse of young people by clergy," Dolan said in press conference according to the Associated Press.

Survivors who accept the compensation must forfeit the option to take legal action against the archdiocese. And despite the compassionate tone of the announcement, the church did not appear to be taking any notable steps toward transparency as, the AP noted, "records of such abuse and what the church did about problem priests will remain private."

The church has come under fire for the way in which it has addressed a long history of sexual misconduct. While Pope Francis has come out with bold statements on the need to address the church's abuses — even asking for forgiveness on behalf of the Catholic Church — in practice, the church has continued to fumble.

Ken Smolka, 70, says he was sexually abused by a priest when he was a child.  Nick Ut/AP

Earlier this year, the Guardian obtained a copy of a French monsignor's training manual for bishops, which steered bishops away form reporting incidents of sexual assault in the church. 

"According to the state of civil laws of each country where reporting is obligatory, it is not necessarily the duty of the bishop to report suspects to authorities, the police or state prosecutors in the moment when they are made aware of crimes or sinful deeds," reads the manual. 

So it was with some skepticism that advocates for the assault victims received the news about the compensation fund.

Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, told the AP that the program still doesn't give survivors a chance to seek legal justice. "[New York's] restrictive statute of limitations has enabled Dolan to hide the true scope of the clergy abuse crisis in the NY archdiocese," she said. "His proposed victims' compensation fund is another tactic designed to fend off disclosure."

But Marci Hamilton, the CEO of Child USA, pointed out that not every victim cares to deal with legal proceedings. "It is a smart way to increase access to some kind of compensation for victims who probably wouldn't be able to handle the rigors of the legal system," she told the AP.