Survivors group: victims want justice, not money
For immediate release, September 5, 2018
Statement by Tim Lennon, SNAP President, 415-312-5820, tlennon@SNAPnetwork.org
In the wake of the damning Pennsylvania grand jury report, Bishop Lawrence Persico of the Erie Diocese has proposed a fund to compensate victims of clergy sexual abuse.
As survivors of heinous crimes ourselves, we know that what victims really want is justice, not money. Survivors want information about their abusers' records, and public acknowledgment of the harm they incurred when the Church put the protection of reputation over the well-being of the innocent.
The best course to obtaining justice would be for the state of Pennsylvania to completely eliminate the statutes of limitations for sexual abuse going forward, allowing criminal prosecution and civil liability for predators and those who protect them. A permanent civil window, like the one adopted in Guam, would also permit survivors who were unable to come forward before the SOL in their case expired to have their day in court.
In our opinion, reparation programs are a public relations ploy by Catholic officials to distract from the necessity of SOL reform. As illustrated by the compensation schemes recently adopted by New York dioceses, these plans are ill adapted to deliver justice to victims and to protect the public:
· Reparation funds allow the Church to continue to hide information about offenders. Church records remain secret, and no predator names are divulged, unless, as in the NY plans, victims are free to identify their abuser, and the amount of compensation they received.
· Catholic officials control the decision making process, that is, claims may be denied that other decisions makers (i.e., a jury) would uphold.
· The Church curtails their liability by deciding on how much each survivor is awarded, and limiting the amount of the awards.Unfortunately many victims have been seriously damaged and require on going care. When the Church does not pay for the harm they caused, the burden for caring for the injured falls on the public.
· The NY reparation programs were limited to diocesan clergy. Those abused by order priests, women religious, and lay employees were left out in the cold. Also left out in the cold when the Church proposes PR ploys while opposing true justice are those victimized in other faith communities, and in other institutions.
The Erie bishop is quite correct when he said that no dollar amount can make amends for the sexual abuse of innocent children and vulnerable adults. However, it is also true that many victims are in dire need of financial help due to the injuries they incurred, and should be awarded what they deserve, not what the Church deigns to give.
While we believe that eliminating the SOLs going forward, and opening up a permanent civil window, is the optimum way for survivors to obtain the justice and compensation they want and need, we fully support any survivor who decides that it is best for him or her to participate in a reparation program.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been working for thirty years to support victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings and has more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)