NEWARK, N. J. – Victims of sexual abuse by Roman Catholic clergy in New Jersey will soon be able to apply for compensation from a fund that all five of the dioceses, one of the managers of the fund announced Monday.
Camille Biros, who is also the supervision of equal remuneration funds in Pennsylvania and New York, said that New Jersey will be different because all five of the state’s dioceses will follow the protocols. This will be posted on a website early next week, followed by a 30-day public comment period before they are finalized.
The first phase lasts for at least six months, Biros said, and will focus on alleged victims who have made use of earlier claims. A second phase will focus on new claims.
“We look forward to working with the dioceses and are excited about the fact that this is a general protocol for the entire state,” Biros said.
A fund Biros oversees in New York has paid out more than $210 million to more than 1,100 victims in five dioceses, she said.
Five months ago, New Jersey attorney general announced a criminal investigation into clergy sexual abuse on the heels of a grand jury investigation in Pennsylvania that more than 1,000 children had been abused by about 300 priests over a period of decades.
Victims with no compensation in New Jersey will give up their right to sue, which may be of particular interest because lawmakers have proposed a bill that may eliminate the statute of limitations for sexual abuse victims to file civil actions. Currently, adults have two years to sue from the moment they first realize the misuse damaged.
The fund will also not cover abuse by the religious order of priests, like the Jesuits, who may serve in a parish or schools, but are not ordained by the diocese.
Gregory Gianforcaro, a lawyer who has won civil settlements for numerous victims of clergy sexual abuse in New Jersey, said that while compensation can be a welcome development for the victims, it could prevent other story they would try.
“Many of the victims want information,” he said. “They are looking to the records, the personnel files are listed, as well as other non-monetary assistance, such as an apology. It seems to me that this compensation package is the church way to get around it to provide information about their priests.”
Biros said: there is no limit to the amount of the fee per individual victim, but said that the highest amount paid in New York is $500,000. They also said that a recently established fund in the archdiocese of Philadelphia has paid out more than $7 million to 85 victims to date.