The twin spires of Saint John the Baptist Cathedral in Downtown Fresno. Image via wikipedia user Diocesan Officials.
Written by The Business Journal Staff
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno is participating in a new program to compensate victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests.
Along with dioceses in Orange, Sacramento, San Bernardino and San Diego, as well as the archdiocese of Los Angeles, the participating bodies serve 80% of the state’s Catholic population, or about 10 million people.
Called the Independent Compensation Program for Victim-Survivors of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests, the fund is independent of church control. It is the product of six months of work with California bishops and nationally known mediators Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros.
The independent oversight board includes former Governor Gray Davis and former U.S. Small Business Administration head Maria Contreras-Sweet.
A program website is in the works, and it is expected to formally begin September.
Mediators Feinberg and Biros are running similar abuse compensation programs covering Catholic dioceses in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Colorado.
The program is voluntary, with victim-survivors able to enter the program as an alternative to pursuing claims against the church in court. The six dioceses will begin reaching out to victims who have previously reported allegations of abuse. With no proof-of-citizenship requirements, undocumented immigrants who may have been victims are eligible to make claims.
“Victim-survivors do not need to have a lawyer to participate and there are no fees for participating,” according to a news release from Feinberg. “Settlements for fully completed claims can be paid within 90 days.”
Over the past two decades, Catholic Dioceses in California have paid close to $1.5 billion to thousands of survivors “to acknowledge responsibility for the grave offenses committed by priests and to compensate victims for their pain and suffering,” according to the news release.