BUFFALO, N.Y. — The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo is hoping to right a major wrong for victims of sexual abuse.
“We are so very, very sorry for the pain of the abuse that has happened to you. We’re sorry. I’m sorry and want to do everything we can going forward, reaching out to you who have to come to us in the past,” said Most Rev. Bishop J. Malone of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo.
The church announced Thursday they’ve created the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) to pay those who have previously made claims of abuse.
Since 1950, the church estimates they’ve gotten at least 100 claims against at least 53 members of the clergy and say they’ve paid about $1.2 million in previous settlements.
According to Bishop Malone, the church has been working on this program for about six months and modeled it after those launched by other churches.
Basically, anyone who has made a claim against a clergy member that they have on file will be sent a letter asking them to file a formal claim.
That claim will then be passed along to arbitrators who will determine how much, if any, compensation is appropriate.
The goal is to have each case completed no later than 30 days after all relevant information is gathered.
The announcement comes days after a Buffalo man recounted abuse he allegedly suffered at the hands of now former priest Norbert Orsolits in Springville almost 40 years ago.
Orsolits was eventually removed from ministry due to those claims against him in 2003, but not before he was allowed to return to the ministry years earlier.
“At the time, the gold standard was to send someone away for evaluation at an accredited facility and has he had said publicly, he went away, he was sent away and he went to a facility for counseling and some form of rehabilitation to find out whether or not he was suitable for ministry,” said attorney for the diocese, Terrence M Connors, “When he came back with a clean bill of health, advised that he was able to come back and serve, he did serve but as he also told you there was no evidence of abuse after he came back and he served in a guarded fashion.”
While the fund will hopefully bring closure to those currently suffering, the church says they're also actively working to make sure this doesn't happen again.
"Since 2003, there's been mandatory training and a system of background checks for all who regularly interact with young people in our diocese,” said Bishop Malone.
According to the diocese, the money for this fund will be come from a mixture of liability insurance and investments, but Bishop Malone stated that the church would also be willing to sell certain properties “if need be.”