“I deeply regret the pain and suffering of survivors and any decisions that failed to protect them,” said Archbishop Nelson J. Perez in a recent letter written to area parishioners. “The pain and damage are profound.”
“Profound” is certainly one way to quantify it. The word does not, however, seem to lend proper gravity to the fact that since its announcement in 2018, the Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program run by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia has taken reports of 615 claims of sexual abuse perpetrated by its priests.
Those 615 claims will cost the area’s archdiocese approximately $126 million at an average award of $211,000 each. 208 claims have been paid so far at a cost of just under $43 million and the church says it has another $20 million in funds available to pay whatever claims it can. The remaining money will have to be obtained through loans and the sale of church property.
As detailed in a recent story posted to The Philadelphia Inquirer, the ability of the church to move massive amounts of money between its various interests would rival some major corporations. Previous efforts to fulfill payout obligations under the reparations program have seen tens of millions in loans come from various seminaries, Catholic Social Services, the Office for Catholic Education, a cemetery care trust, a priests’ pension fund, and a benefits trust. Agencies within the church usually tasked with finding funding for homeless aid, addiction recovery, and the care and adoption of children are now funneling millions of dollars to the archdiocese as hundreds of victims demand compensation for a lifetime of damage inflicted by those with whom they should have been able to feel safest.
While the amounts might be staggering, the use and success of the IRRP can largely be seen as an overall win for the church. Claims resolved via the church’s internal program keep those claims out of the public eye as victims sign agreements that remove their right to sue in civil court once they’ve been paid. The victims will also never have the chance to face their assailants, nor will they be able to seek answers to questions that, in some cases, have plagued them for the majority of their lives.