Citing financial losses resulting from the coronavirus pandemic, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Camden said Friday that it would halt payments from a clergy sex-abuse victim fund that has paid out nearly $7.6 million.
In a statement, the diocese said it had suffered a “precipitous decline in revenue” and was rapidly approaching a point where it would not be able to continue to borrow money to pay authorized awards.
“These steps are necessary in order to maintain the critical programs the Diocese of Camden continues to provide for the communities it serves, which, now more than ever, are so essential,” it read.
A diocesan spokesperson said he did not know how many victim claims would go unresolved. Victims and their lawyers on Friday decried the decision, noting that many had been asked to relive traumatizing experiences and fill out exhaustive paperwork while applying through a process that is being abandoned.
“This is going to surprise a lot of people,” said Marci Hamilton, a sex-abuse victims’ lawyer and an advocate for looser statutes of limitations in sex-abuse cases. “All I can say is, God bless the victims. They were just told to hurry up and then wait, and now they’re going to have to wait even longer.”
The full statement, from the Diocese of Camden website:
For nearly 30 years the Diocese of Camden has been committed to providing professional counseling to the survivors of child sexual abuse to assist in the healing process and, where it has been requested, to the survivors’ parents, spouses and children. Thus far, the Diocese has expended nearly $1 million in providing such therapeutic assistance.
In addition, to offer a measure of justice to the survivors of clerical abuse, the Diocese of Camden paid financial settlements totaling $10,270,000 from 1990 until last year.
In June of last year, along with the Archdiocese of Newark and the other Catholic dioceses in New Jersey, the Diocese of Camden agreed to participate in the Independent Victim Compensation Program (IVCP) to supplement its prior efforts. Thus far, the Diocese has paid $7,577,500 in awards determined by the IVCP
However, the Diocese sustained a precipitous decline in revenue resulting from the COVID-19 pandemic, and it is fast approaching a point where it will not be able to continue to borrow the funds necessary to pay the amounts awarded by the Program. As a result, the Diocese has advised the IVCP Administrators that it is necessary to suspend its participation in the Program. Although awards already made by the IVCP Administrators will be paid, the Diocese is instituting a moratorium on further determinations or awards. These steps are necessary in order to maintain the critical programs that the Diocese of Camden continues to provide for the communities it serves which, now more than ever, are so essential.