The Diocese of Scranton launches independent survivors compensation program

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SCRANTON — The Diocese of Scranton launched its Independent Survivors Compensation Program, an independent program designed to compensate survivors of childhood sexual abuse. Participation in the Program by survivors is entirely voluntary and the Program is run completely independent of the Diocese.

“Our first priorities are to provide support for survivors of child sexual abuse and to take every step necessary to eradicate abuse from the Church altogether,” said the Most Reverend Joseph C. Bambera, D.D., J.C.L., Bishop of Scranton. “This Program helps. While no financial compensation can change the past, it is my hope that this Program will help survivors in their healing and recovery process.”

The Diocese’s program includes all victims, whether the abuser was a priest from the Diocese of Scranton, from a religious order, or was a lay employee of the Diocese. The Diocese announced on November 8, 2018 that the Program would be administered by Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros, two leading experts in mediation and alternative dispute resolution who have overseen similar programs started by five Catholic Dioceses in New York. Mr. Feinberg and Ms. Biros will have absolute autonomy in determining compensation for survivors, and the Diocese of Scranton has agreed to abide by all of their decisions.

“Ken and I know how important it is to assist victims who have endured a personal tragedy,” said Biros. “We have worked with survivors of sexual abuse and other tragedies and we have developed a system that operates with one person in mind – the victim. Often, survivors are most concerned with having their abuse acknowledged by the Church so they can begin to heal, and this compensation program will help them do just that.”

Program administrators will reach out directly to those who have previously reported a claim of abuse to the Diocese of Scranton. Survivors who have not yet reported past abuse are also eligible to participate and can request a claim form online after reporting the abuse in writing to the District Attorney’s Office. New claims must be registered with the Program by July 22, 2019, while existing claims can be submitted until September 30, 2019. Administrators will process claims in the order in which they are received, and payments will be made on a rolling basis as claims are processed.

An Independent Oversight Committee comprised of three individuals with relevant experience across healthcare, law enforcement and social work will supervise the Program. The Committee members are:

· Robert Gillespie, Jr., the former District Attorney for Luzerne County

· Ralph H. Meyer, President and Chief Executive Officer Emeritus with Guthrie Healthcare System, who has spent his entire career in healthcare administration

· Robin Engels, MA, MSW, LCSW, a licensed clinical social worker who for years provided counseling and therapy for Veterans and their families including bereavement, sexual trauma, family concerns, educational issues, substance abuse and post-traumatic stress disorder

The Oversight Committee will oversee and periodically review the implementation and administration of the Program. The Committee will also report to the Diocese as to the implementation and administration of the Program.

Parish and school assets, as well as contributions and bequests from parishioners and donations to the Diocesan Annual Appeal will not be used to fund the program. Rather, the Program will be funded by existing Diocesan assets and available reserves. If necessary, the Diocese will sell assets and borrow money.

This Program is one of the many steps the Diocese has taken to assist survivors of abuse. Survivors can continue to receive assistance from the Diocese including counseling or spiritual direction and referrals to support groups. The Diocese strictly adheres to a zero tolerance policy and immediately notifies law enforcement, the District Attorney and child protective services when abuse is reported. When the allegation appears credible, the Diocese removes the priest from ministry pending an investigation. The Diocese fully cooperates with law enforcement for any necessary investigation.

For more information about the Diocese of Scranton’s Independent Survivors Compensation Program, please visit www.ScrantonDioceseISCP.com.

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