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IRCP is ‘a sign of our need for God’s mercy’

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

March 7, 2018

Today  (March 1) I announced the establishment of an Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (“IRCP”) for the Diocese of Ogdensburg. The IRCP is designed to offer reparation, promote reconciliation, and further the healing of individuals who have been sexually abused by members of our clergy.

The clergy sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic Church is a sad chapter in our history. It has dramatically impacted the faith of so many. As a diocese we have taken important steps to address this problem by reporting all allegations of abuse to the proper District Attorney, removing from ministry all clergy with credible allegations of abuse, and preventing future acts of abuse through our prudent safe environment programs and policies.

As your Bishop, I again apologize for the pain and suffering caused by some priests of our diocese. We have consistently provided survivors of abuse with counseling, spiritual support and other support to help them find ways to heal and move forward. We have continuously looked for ways to reach out to victims.

The Year of Mercy, with its focus on healing and reconciliation, stimulated renewed discussion among the bishops of New York State about how to reach out to these victims. These discussions led to the establishment of IRCPs in the Archdiocese of New York, the Diocese of Brooklyn, the Diocese of Rockville Center, and the Diocese of Syracuse. Noting the good will and healing fostered by these IRCP, I decided to establish this IRCP for our diocese. It is simply the right thing to do.

The IRCP will be administered by Mr. Kenneth Feinberg and Ms. Camille Biros, both of whom have vast experience in administering voluntary compensation programs. They administered the World Trade Center compensation program as well as the similar IRCPs established by other dioceses in New York State. Mr. Feinberg and Ms. Biros were selected for this role because of their skills, competence and reputation for treating claimants with fairness, respect and dignity.

The independent administrators will work with those who have reported credible instances of clergy abuse and determine what compensation will be paid to them. These individuals will be invited by letter to participate in this voluntary program. Mr. Feinberg and Ms. Biros have complete discretion in determining who is eligible for compensation and the amount of that compensation. 

There are 38 individuals who will be invited to participate in this program. These claims represent 21 priests who have been credibly accused of sexual abuse. These claims date back to the 1940s. Most of the accused priests are dead, and all of them are no longer in ministry.

The diocese will bear the cost of this program and will borrow the funds needed to compensate survivors.

Repayment of that loan will be made from the sale of diocesan assets over the next several years. Please be assured that we will not use money collected from parishioners to support parishes, schools or charitable works to fund the IRCP. Additionally, monies donated to the annual Bishop’s Fund Appeal, any capital campaign, or gifts to any specific ministry or apostolate will not be used for the IRCP.

My decision to establish this IRCP comes after much prayer and reflection. I have consulted with my brother bishops, the College of Consultors, diocesan staff, and the Diocesan Finance Council, all of whom are supportive of the program. This IRCP is a sign of our need for God’s mercy, reconciliation with survivors, and our desire to reach out with compassion to those who suffer as a result of abuse.

Please join me in praying that this effort will bring peace and healing to survivors, and forgiveness and reconciliation to all affected. May we continue our efforts to provide the safest environment possible for our children and young people, and to reach out to our hurting brothers and sisters.

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