As part of the Archdiocese of Denver’s promise to be transparent about sexual abuse of minors by diocesan priests and to help facilitate healing for survivors, the previously-announced independent reparations and reconciliation program was officially opened Oct. 7.
“We hope that this independent program creates a simple and non-adversarial means for survivors to have their stories heard and be provided with resources to aid in their continued healing,” said Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila in a statement following the announcement. “No matter how long ago the abuse occurred, we hope anyone who is still suffering in silence will be encouraged to come forward. If any survivor also wishes to meet personally with me, my door will be open.”
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, and the window for claims to be registered through the online portal (www.coloradodiocesesirrp.com) is open until Nov. 30.
It is a remarkable effort by the Catholic Church to deal fairly and equitably with the victims in this area.” – Former U.S. Senator Hank Brown
In a press conference Monday, Colorado Attorney General Phil Weiser, together with Feinberg, Biros (from Washington, D.C., by phone) and the members of the independent oversight committee, outlined some of the specifics of the program.
“I want to thank the dioceses of Colorado for conferring on Camille and myself this very important and critical role in designing and administering this program,” Feinberg said. He noted that Colorado’s program is very similar to the programs he and Biros have administered in New York, New Jersey, Pennsylvania and California.
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.
“It is a remarkable effort by the Catholic Church to deal fairly and equitably with the victims in this area,” Brown said. “The dioceses in Colorado recognize that there’s a problem of historic abuse in Colorado and that it is necessary to work to make amends, not only for the victims that were hurt, but for the community as a whole.”
“This is an important step forward today,” Weiser added.
Compensation will be determined solely by Feinberg and Biros, 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.
Funding for the program will be provided by existing diocesan assets and not any money given to donor-designated funds or donations made to parishes, ministries or schools.
Feinberg explained the process he and Biros go through the determine the reparation amount for each survivor.
“We look at … what is the nature of the abuse, [and] we also look carefully at the number of incidents of the abuse,” he said. “Then we use our judgment based on other programs, based on what we’ve determined is an amount that should be offered.”
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.
“I feel it is important for victims to have choices about how they want to move forward in their lives,” said victim rights advocate Nancy Feldman, who is also on the oversight committee. “This program will give victims the opportunity — if they so choose — to go through a non-adversarial process. Through this process they will be able to choose how much they want to share with the independent administrator, knowing that their information will be kept strictly confidential. ”
Archbishop Aquila acknowledged that money cannot heal the wounds that survivors of sexual abuse suffer. However, he is hopeful that this program will serve as an aid in their path of healing, and asks for continued prayers for all survivors of sexual abuse.
“Please join me in praying for the continued healing of all survivors of sexual abuse,” he said. “May we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, who alone can provide peace and comfort.”
For full details on the reparations program, visit archden.org/promise.
Editor’s Note: An earlier version of this story listed the wrong date as the deadline for claims to be registered. Individuals with a claim must register their claims through the online portal (www.coloradodiocesesirrp.com) by Nov. 30, 2019.
We apologize for the error.
Featured image: DENVER, CO – FEBRUARY 19: Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila speaks during a press conference announcing a comprehensive joint agreement with the Colorado Attorney General’s Office to conduct an independent review of the dioceses’ files and policies related to the sexual abuse of children at the Ralph L. Carr Colorado Judicial Center on February 19, 2019, in Denver, Colorado. (Photo by Anya Semenoff/Archdiocese of Denver)