Diocese launches compensation program for abuse victims

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The Diocese of San Bernardino has joined five other California dioceses in establishing a new Independent Compensation Program (ICP) for Victim-Survivors of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests. In a statement, Bishop Gerald Barnes said the ICP builds on efforts of the Diocese to bring healing to victims and acknowledge responsibility for past failures to protect minors from abuse.

Bishop Gerald Barnes Statement on ICP (Bilingual)
ICP Media Release
ICP Frequently Asked Questions
Bishop Gerald Barnes Video Message (English)
Bishop Gerald Barnes Video Message (Spanish)

SAN BERNARDINO—The Diocese of San Bernardino is one of six dioceses in California to announce the initiation of a Independent Compensation Program (ICP) that will provide financial restitution to those who were sexually abused as minors by a diocesan priest. The process will be administered by a third-party mediator.

 Announced May 14, the program is offered to victims who have not previously received financial settlements from the Diocese and covers allegations that took place from 1978, the year of the Diocese’s founding, to the present. Bishop Gerald Barnes, in a statement, said he made the decision to have the Diocese participate in the ICP as further acknowledgement of the Church’s responsibility for the pain suffered by victim-survivors of clergy sexual abuse.

 “I know that financial compensation cannot erase the trauma and lasting impacts of abuse. At the same time, several of my brother bishops of California and I have come to believe, after prayerful reflection, that this Program can offer a measure of healing to victims,” Bishop Barnes said. “We also hope that it further demonstrates acknowledgement of our past failures to protect youth from abuse, and our willingness to accept the consequences of those failures.”

 The Program will be administered by Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros, Washington D.C.-based attorneys who are performing the same role for several dioceses, nationally, that have established similar programs for victims of clergy sexual abuse. Those dioceses include the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and five others in Pennsylvania, the Archdiocese of New York and four others in New York, all five Catholic dioceses in New Jersey and the Catholic dioceses of Colorado.

 Victims of abuse wishing to participate in the program will be asked to contact Feinberg’s firm directly through an established hotline and website. Feinberg’s team, led by Biros, will receive testimony from the victim and conduct all necessary background investigation to determine if the allegation is credible. If it is found to be credible, financial compensation will be offered commensurate with the nature of the abuse.

 “An independent third-party Administrator permits a certain distance from the Church itself,” said Biros. “The goal, of course, is to encourage victims to apply, not only for compensation, but, just as importantly, for validation and acknowledgement of the wrong that was suffered.  An independent Administrator can accomplish this.”

 The other California dioceses participating in the ICP are the Diocese of San Diego, the Diocese of Orange, the Diocese of Sacramento, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Diocese of Fresno. 

 In its 40-year history, the Diocese has paid approximately $25 million in financial compensation to 70 different victims of abuse. The Diocese participated in a global settlement in coordination with the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, Diocese of Orange and Diocese of San Diego in 2008.

 Last October, the Diocese published to its web site a list of all priests with credible allegations of sexual abuse of a minor from 1978 to the present. It currently lists 36 priests.