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Brooklyn diocese announces sex abuse compensation program

NEW YORK (AP) — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Brooklyn announced Thursday it is setting up a compensation program for victims of past sexual abuse by priests, modeled after a program the larger New York archdiocese started last year.

“I am well aware that no amount of money will ever heal the scars of abuse, but this program is a concrete expression of our contrition and our desire to make amends, Bishop Nicholas DiMarzo said.

DiMarzo said the diocese will take out a loan to pay the claims and will not use money intended to support parishes, schools or charitable works. He did not specify the loan amount.

The program will be administered by Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros, who are also running the New York archdiocese program. They will review claims and determine how much money to offer.

Under the first phase of the program, the diocese is contacting about 235 people who previously reported being abused when they were minors and explaining how to file a claim. The deadline for filing a claim under Phase 1 will be Sept. 30.

People with claims of abuse not previously reported will be eligible to apply for compensation under the second phase.

Carolyn Erstad, a spokeswoman for the diocese, said previously reported abuse allegations go back as far as 1934. She said families can apply for compensation if the victim is deceased.

Feinberg also served as administrator of the compensation funds for Sept. 11 victims’ families and victims of the 2010 BP oil spill in the Gulf of Mexico.

The New York archdiocese program that he and Biros have been running since October 2016 has paid 120 claims so far, with no claimants rejecting their officers, Biros said.

Mitchell Garabedian, a Boston-based lawyer representing victims of childhood sex abuse by clergy members, said some abuse survivors will welcome the Brooklyn diocese’s compensation program.

“For those victims who want to try to heal and move on, the program will be helpful,” Garabedian said. “For others who want their day in court and want to obtain transparency through a court proceeding, the program will not be helpful.”

DiMarzo said the diocese has referred all claims of sexual misconduct against a minor to the appropriate district attorney. But New York’s statute of limitations makes most of them impossible to prosecute.

The state Senate declined this week to take up a bill to extend the statute of limitations in child sex abuse cases.

The Brooklyn diocese includes the New York City boroughs of Brooklyn and Queens. The New York archdiocese includes Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island and seven counties north of the city.

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