Diocese of Camden Suspends Compensation Program, SNAP Reacts
The Diocese of Camden, NJ is suspending all payouts to survivors of sexual abuse due to budgetary impacts from COVID. This is a hurtful and deceitful move that clearly shows that the best pathway for survivors to get justice is through the court system and not church-run programs.
Last year, church officials from Camden called for victims to come forward and participate in their Independent Victims Compensation Plan. They ran this plan in hopes that survivors would not take advantage of New Jersey’s recent Child Victims Act and instead come to the church for help. Less than one year later, Camden officials have reneged on the promise they made to the survivors of abuse and are refusing to help new survivors coming forward.
The Diocese of Camden brings in millions every year through its Bishops' Appeal. Similarly, according to research done by ProPublica, Camden officials received as much as $5 million from the federal government’s Payroll Protection Program. Given this, it is difficult to take the claims of poverty coming from Camden officials seriously.
Civil windows like those that have been opened states like New York, New Jersey, and California do not close because of financial downturn. They do not turn away survivors because market funds have taken a dip. They do not promise survivors compensation only to pull the rug out from underneath them and “suspend payments.” Instead, they offer survivors the opportunity to share their story publicly in a civil court. Compensation programs do not, and as we have clearly seen from this example, they are not the guarantee that church officials claim they are.
Example after example make it clear that the best way for survivors to seek justice and healing is outside the church. Whether it is an intervention by attorneys general in order to investigate covered-up cases of abuse or efforts by legislators to open pathways to justice for survivors, secular society has long provided the answers that church officials have failed to deliver. We hope that more and more survivors and advocates will encourage their state legislators to take up window legislation and turn away from church-run programs that, apparently, can be suspended at will.
If a diocese is going to operate a compensation program, then they should ensure that they are running these programs properly. Every single bishop who is currently offering such a program should immediately set aside and protect the money that has been promised to those who experienced sexual abuse at the hands of diocesan employees. To do otherwise is to continue the church tradition of false promises for those who have suffered from clergy abuse.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)