Colorado dioceses announce opening of independent reparations and reconciliation program

Denver Catholic Staff

On Oct. 7, the Catholic Dioceses of Colorado announced the opening of an independent reparations program for individuals who were sexually abused as minors by parish priests in Colorado.

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COMING UP: Independent reparations program meant to ‘help restore peace and dignity to survivors’

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The Archdiocese of Denver, in conjunction with the two other Colorado dioceses and Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, will soon be opening an independent reparations program for those sexually abused as minors by parish priests.

The reparations program was announced in February alongside the archdiocese’s voluntary cooperation with the attorney general in an independent review of all three Colorado dioceses’ files and policies related to the sexual abuse of minors.

The reparations program will be run by nationally recognized claims administration experts, Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros, who will review individual cases and determine financial reparations to survivors who elect to participate. The payments will be funded by the diocese where the abuse occurred.

In a letter written in February, Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila explained that the primary reason the dioceses were entering into the file review and the subsequent reparations program was to be as transparent as possible and, ultimately, help to facilitate healing for those who were sexually abused as minors by parish priests.

“The damage inflicted upon young people and their families by sexual abuse, especially when it’s committed by a trusted person like a priest, is profound,” Archbishop Aquila wrote. “And while money can’t heal wounds, it can acknowledge the evil that was done and help restore peace and dignity to the survivors.”

The program is entirely independent, with no involvement from the three Colorado dioceses other than to fund the program, and it will be overseen by an Independent Oversight Committee led by former U.S. Senator Hank Brown. Compensation will be determined solely by the independent administrators, and survivors are free to accept or reject the offers. The dioceses, however, are required to accept and pay the amount determined by the administrators for any survivor who chooses to participate. There is no pool of money set aside, and no aggregate cap on the program.

Further, there is no restriction on a survivor’s ability to speak publicly about the abuse, this program, or any amount that is paid. However, to protect the privacy of the victims, the program and Colorado dioceses will keep the survivor’s information strictly confidential, except to fulfill their legal obligation to report abuse to local law enforcement.

This reparations program is similar to one instituted by former Denver Archbishop Charles J. Chaput in 2006. Archbishop Aquila stressed that the program will be funded entirely by archdiocesan reserves, with no money being taken from ministries or charities at parishes, annual diocesan appeals or Catholic Charities.

Archbishop Aquila acknowledged how painful this has been for everyone in the Church and expressed hope for this to be a step toward restoring confidence and trust among the faithful, as well as survivors.

“Helping people to restore their trust, to live their faith, that is essential,” the archbishop said at a press conference in February. “And to help them have a deeper encounter with Jesus Christ, that is my goal in all of this. I know that healing is possible in Jesus Christ.”

Information on how to participate in the program will be announced in the coming weeks.

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