BAKERSFIELD,Calif. — The California Archdioceses serves 80 percent of the state’s Catholic population, and has announced they will be launching a compensation claim program for sexual abuse victims.
The archdiocese is launching a compensation program for victims who were sexually abused as a minor by a priest, this fall. The program is accepting claims even if no criminal liability is found through law enforcement.
Camille Biros, mediation compensation administrator for the program says the churches by law still will have to report these claims to law enforcement. The new program will allow sexual abuse victims to file claims for compensation, instead of a lawsuit against the clergy.
Individuals can file a claim no matter when the abuse occurred or whether the accuser has been found guilty in the court of law.
“We look at the nature of the abuse, how long it when on, was it once or years whether it was alcohol or drugs,” said Biros.
Biros, says other dioceses have a maximum of $500,000, but a maximum amount for California's program has not been decided. However, if the program decides on a value amount on a claim, the church must honor it.
“This is not a program that would offer compensation in the millions of dollars,” Biros said. “That is more of a verdict settlement, not a private compensation program. A lot of these cases we deal with are time barred with the statute of limitations.”
Biros adds if there’s anyone who hasn’t come forward, this is another option instead of filing a lawsuit against the Catholic Church. However, they will not be able to file a future suit against the church and it releases them of all liability. Victims would still be able to speak about all details of their choosing.
“The claim that we ask for is the basic information” Brios said. “We ask what happened to them, when it happened who is the abuser and a few other details.”
Jeff Anderson, attorney who represents Survivors of Sexual Abuse against the Clergy says this program is progress.
“It's lesser than the full measure of accountability,” said Anderson. “It does give survivors a choice to get it done quicker and easier than going through litigation process which takes longer, but that can accomplish more.”
Anderson says programs like this tend to appear in states when there is a possible new bill afoot.
“A statute of limitations bill is passed throughout the assembly in California Legislature.” Anderson said. “It opens a window of three years for survivors to bring any cause of actions of damages arising from sexual abuse, and it is having hearings in the senate right now.”
Biros emphasizes that this isn’t hush money.
“The victims are not concerned in the money as they are in the acknowledgment and validation of their claim,” Biros said.
The program is expected to only accept claims for a year and the settlement for each claim varies case by case.