SYRACUSE, N.Y. -- Syracuse Catholic Diocese Bishop Robert Cunningham unveiled the establishment of a compensation fund for victims of abuse at the hands of clergy in the diocese.
The voluntary Independent Reconciliation Compensation Program has a goal to "promote reconciliation and further healing of those who were harmed by members of the clergy."
Cunningham on Wednesday, commented that on a holy day for Catholics, Ash Wednesday is a day of penance, and a fitting time to make the announcement.
"As we begin this Lenten season, we must continue to seek forgiveness as a Church and seek reconciliation for those who have been hurt," Cunningham said.
The bishop said 76 people will receive a letter inviting them to participate, representing 40 offenders. Cunningham added all of the accused clergy have been removed and some have died. However, he said that because some survivors didn't want their abusers names released, he will continue his policy of only confirming a name when a survivor decides to make that information public.
The fund will be administered by Kenneth Feinberg -- who also administered victim compensation funds following the 9/11 attacks, and other clergy abuse compensation funds.
"We hope that they will apply," Feinberg said. "There is no guarantee that the victim will step forward."
But new claims won't be considered by the program.
"The program won't consider new allegations, rather on the dozens of cases that have arisen over the past 40 years, Feinberg said.
Downstate diocese -- including Brooklyn, New York City and Rockville Centre (Long Island) -- have similar funds.
The response from survivors and their families has been extremely positive. We know and acknowledge that we cannot reverse the damage that was done but our hope is that this new effort will provide an opportunity to seek forgiveness for the irreparable acts of the past and perhaps, bring a sense of healing to some," Cunningham said in statement.
“There is no question we have made missteps in handling this crisis. However, over the past 15 years, the Diocese of Syracuse has addressed this problem aggressively by reporting all allegations to the appropriate district attorney, ensuring that no clergy with a credible allegation of abuse remains in ministry, and preventing acts of abuse through our highly successful Safe Environment Program. Survivors have been provided counseling, spiritual direction and other support to help them find ways to move forward."
The total cost of the program will be paid from the Diocese of Syracuse’s general liability insurance program. The diocese won't use any money given by the people of the diocese to support parishes, schools or any charitable fund in the diocese.
For more information on the Independent Reconciliation Compensation program, visit www.SyracuseDioceseIRCP.com.