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The Catholic Diocese of Richmond announced a program on Monday which aims to compensate victims of child sexual abuse and assaults perpetrated by priests and employees of the parish.
In a press release issued on February 17, Bishop Barry C. Knestout announced the establishment of the Independent Reconciliation Program, which will be funded by the diocese. Participating in the program, however, will mean victims would sign away their right to file a later lawsuit against the diocese.
The diocese indicates the fund is just one part of a larger reconciliation program being conducted by the parish. It comes in the wake of an “atonement tour” Knestout made over the last two years, which involved listening sessions and masses throughout the parish. In addition, the diocese has published a list of at least 54 priests whom Knestout determined to be the subjects of credible claims of child sexual abuse.
“We have watched as dioceses throughout the country have embraced reconciliation programs similar to this program and noted the benefit to victim survivors,” Knestout said in the press release. “This program – designed and managed by a nationally recognized and highly respected, independent claims administrator – gives victim survivors an opportunity to receive monetary payment in a manner that is compassionate.”
Other Catholic Church sex abuse settlement funds have been put in place in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Colorado.
Amid growing recognition that large institutions like the Catholic Church, Boy Scouts of America and other entities covered up known instances of abuse for decades and actively worked to prevent individuals from presenting claims, New York, New Jersey, California and a number of other states have enacted legislation that extends the child sex abuse statute of limitations, increasing pressure on the institutions to provide settlements for assault survivors.
As child sex abuse lawyers continue to review and file claims over the coming months, the number of lawsuits filed in New York state is expected to increase, as the deadline for previously expired claims approaches in August 2020.