The vast majority of Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses have chosen Kenneth Feinberg’s Washington, D.C.-based law firm to handle the administration of funds they’re using to compensate survivors of sex abuse at the hands of the Church.
Feinberg is highly experienced in such matters and has become, as described by triblive.com, the “go-to person for determining how people are compensated in the wake of tragedy.” His prior engagements include the Jerry Sandusky sex abuse scandal that rocked Penn State University as well as the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund.
That someone who has seen the impact of severe tragedy has been taken aback by the extent of sexual abuse perpetrated by the Church is telling. In Feinberg’s words, “it’s astounding as to the number of claims we’ve seen in New York and Pennsylvania. And it’s amazing to us how there are claimants who want maybe more than money – to be heard. To tell us their story.”
The funds were established late last year under the moniker of the Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program. Mirrored largely on the program used to pay out similar claims in New York – a program that has paid over $200 million to over 1,000 victims since its inception – it imposes no limits on the amount of time that could have elapsed between the time of the abuse and when the survivor came forward.
This has the benefit of bypassing statutes of limitations that could prevent survivors from being compensated for their ordeals. Given that the abuses could have happened years or even decades ago, such time frames fall far outside the limits imposed by most civil and legal statutes. At the same time, some survivors see the funds as a way for the Church to keep the scandal out of the courts and to handle the matter internally. Survivor payouts are purely a private matter and make no allowances for legal or criminal repercussions. As one survivor laments, “If I do something wrong, I don’t make my own punishment up. Neither should they.”
Philadelphia-region survivors have until September 30th to file their claims with the fund and can do so at www.philadelphiaarchdioceseirrp.com.