Catholic Diocese of Camden seeking approval for a plan to pay only $26 million to more than 300 claimants; SNAP calls the proposal an "insult"

The Diocese of Camden is seeking the approval of the bankruptcy court to set up a $26 million dollar fund to compensate at least 320 survivors of clergy sexual abuse. This translates to an average payment of about $81,250 per victim. We stand with the survivors and agree with their lawyers who called this offer an "insult" to those sentenced to a lifetime of suffering.

Victims sued the Camden Diocese for child sexual abuse under the "window to justice" opened in New Jersey. In response, the Diocese sought bankruptcy protection. We believe that this was done not just to protect its assets, but also to prevent information about the way it handled abuse cases from being revealed to the public.  Camden is now attempting to further protect their assets by providing an insultingly paltry fund to compensate the victims it created with its moral bankruptcy. Attorneys representing the claimants are not only outraged at the inadequate offer, but they have also accused the Diocese of attempting to conceal assets.

History has taught us many lessons in Catholic bankruptcy cases. Time and again, Church officials sought to keep assets from being available to compensate victims. For example, in Milwaukee, then-Bishop Timothy Dolan transferred almost $57 million to a cemetery fund to shield it from survivors. The Archdiocese of St. Paul-Minneapolis went into bankruptcy, and Catholic officials there undervalued its assets. The judge in the Diocese of San Diego bankruptcy threatened to dismiss the proceedings after the court-appointed auditor did not agree that there were assets in the Diocese's financial report that did not belong to the Diocese. An Oakland activist undertook a privately funded appraisal of property in that Diocese and found it was debt-free with nearly $2 billion in assets. Indeed, a year after funding $56 million in settlements, Oakland built a $200 million cathedral without declaring bankruptcy. Based on history, it is clear that Catholic officials do not act out of indigence, but out of greed.

There is no price that will compensate a survivor for their soul's destruction. In a Diocese like Camden with valuable real estate and other financial assets, job one of Catholic officials should be to admit it covered up and enabled sexual abuse and to make amends by paying fair compensation to the victims of its decisions. $81,000 doesn't come close to covering a lifetime of suffering, much less recognize that survivors often have a harder time earning money and holding jobs, and are simply treading water in life. 

ChildUSA estimates that the lifetime cost to society of a single case of child sexual abuse is nearly $900,000. That means society is bearing the burden of Camden's willful support of clergy who sexually abused children. We believe that this figure should be kept in mind when determining adequate restitution for survivors in the bankruptcy.

We also hope that the Special Taskforce formed in September 2018 to investigate allegations of sexual abuse by the clergy in Catholic Dioceses throughout New Jersey will soon have a report ready. Its findings may well create a groundswell of support for having those who willfully created clergy abuse victims responsible for the damage caused.

CONTACT: Mark Crawford, SNAP New Jersey (732-632-7687, Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009) Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communication Manager, ([email protected], 267-261-0578)

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