SNAP Calls on Diocese of Richmond to Extend Deadline to Register for Compensation Program in Light of Coronavirus
In February, the Diocese of Richmond quietly announced a compensation program for survivors. Their program has an incredibly short registration window, barely lasting two months. Now, in light of coronavirus concerns that have paralyzed a nation, we are calling on Catholic officials in Richmond to extend the deadline for their compensation program and make efforts to ensure that survivors of clergy abuse are aware of the program’s existence.
Richmond’s compensation program is currently set to close on April 3, less than two months after it was announced on February 17. This already-short window for survivors to learn about the program and make a decision on participation is made all the worse now that Coronavirus is rewriting daily routines and lives. We believe that the right thing to do in this case is for church leaders in Richmond to extend the deadline for participation in the program for an six months.
If Catholic officials in Richmond truly care about the suffering that survivors have gone through, they would take steps to ensure that victims are adequately recognized and compensated. Instead, they have very quietly announced a program with a narrow participation window, a move that seems more about being able to say “see, we did something” than to actually help survivors heal. Jesus did not tell his followers “I will heal you, but only if you come to me for help by a certain time.”
We call on Bishop Barry Knestout to use the power of his office to extend this program. He should then use every resource at his disposal to share news about the extension in diocesan, parish, and community bulletins, as well as statewide news sources, so that survivors across Virginia are aware of the program and the extension.
This situation is yet another reminder that the best way for victims to receive justice and recognition is through secular society, not church-run programs. We hope that survivors, advocates, and all Virginians who care about equity and healing will write to their state legislators and encourage them to once again take up legislation in Virginia that will open a civil window and eliminate civil and criminal statutes of limitations on cases of sexual violence.
(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)