Independent File Review and Reparations Program: A letter from Archbishop Aquila

Denver Catholic Staff

The following letter from Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila regarding the Independent File Review and Reparations Program will be available at all parishes in the Archdiocese of Denver beginning the weekend of Oct. 5-6.

Dear Sisters & Brothers,

As you may recall, last February the Catholic Dioceses of Colorado announced two initiatives to support the continued healing process for those who were sexually abused as minors by parish priests. Those two initiatives –an independent reparations and reconciliation program and an independent file review – will now be fully implemented in the coming weeks and months.

We have spent the last few decades working to address the issue of sex abuse and to make our churches among the
safest spaces for children, but we recognize that pain caused by past abuse still needs to be continually addressed. We know that for survivors what has been taken from them can never be fully restored, but we hope these initiatives can provide some measure of justice, validation and healing for them and their families.

REPARATIONS AND RECONCILIATION PROGRAM

This program will be officially opened in the coming days, and information for those wishing to participate will be available on our diocesan websites. A couple of key points for you to know:

• The program will be independently run by a team of nationally recognized administrators and overseen by a
local oversight committee of lay people from around the state.

• The administrators will evaluate claims made against diocesan priests, and determine a reparation offer to the victim-survivor.

• Participation by the individuals is voluntary and the offer can always be rejected, but the dioceses are bound to abide by the administrators’ decisions.

• Funding for the program will come from diocesan reserves and assets, with no money coming from donations to parishes, ministries or schools.

INDEPENDENT FILE REVIEW

As part of an agreement with the Attorney General of Colorado, an independent file review led by former U.S. Attorney Robert Troyer is in its final stages, and a public report of his findings will soon be published. We believe this will provide a transparent accounting of all past substantiated allegations and a fair evaluation of how the dioceses responded. The final report for each diocese will include:

• An analysis of the diocese’s current policies and procedures to prevent and report abuse.

• A review of how the diocese handled past allegations, and if they correctly reported the allegation to local
authorities according to the applicable state laws at the time.

• A list of all diocesan priests with one or more substantiated allegations of sexual abuse of a minor, along with a summary of the incidents and how they were handled.

As we said in February, there will no doubt be many painful moments in the coming months as we shine the bright light of transparency on the Church’s history related to the sexual abuse of minors, but we ask that you join us in prayer for all victims of sexual abuse, and that we maintain our trust in Jesus who alone can provide true healing and peace.

Sincerely,

 

 

 

Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila

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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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