A Catholic diocese has agreed to an $87.5 million settlement involving a clergy sex abuse case.
One of the largest cash settlements involving the Catholic Church in America had just been recorded when a New Jersey Catholic diocese agreed to pay $87.5 million to settle claims that sex abuse was committed by a member of the clergy against up to 300 victims. An agreement was made with the Diocese of Camden, which leads six counties in southern New Jersey, Philadelphia, and plaintiffs.
According to CBN News, the agreement was filed with U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Camden on Tuesday and will go before a U.S. bankruptcy judge. If the judge approves the settlement, the settlement would exceed the almost $85 million settlement in 2003, in which a clergy abuse scandal took place in Boston. However, it is less than other settlements in California and Oregon.
"I want to express my sincere apology to all those who have been affected by sexual abuse in our Diocese," Bishop Dennis Sullivan said in a statement. "My prayers go out to all survivors of abuse and I pledge my continuing commitment to ensure that this terrible chapter in the history of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey never happens again."
The proposed settlement did not include details of what happened to the 300 victims, an attorney for more than 70 victims confirmed. Jeff Anderson, an attorney who represented 74 of the roughly 300 survivors, said, "This settlement with the Bishop of Camden is a powerful advance in accountability. The credit goes to the survivors for standing up for themselves and the truth."
Anderson reported that the alleged sexual abuse took place from the 1950s into the 1990s, but primarily unfolded between the 1960s and 1970s. The New Jersey Catholic diocese said that the settlement required the setting up of a trust, which will be funded over four years by the diocese and "related Catholic entities" to compensate the survivors of the clergy sexual abuse. The deal also requires "enhancing" and maintaining protocols to protect children.
The victims' attorneys Jay Mascolo and Jason Amala reported that abuse survivors who filed a claim in the bankruptcy may get up to $290,000. THe settlement comes two years after New Jersey increased the window of its civil statute of limitations to allow for victims of sexual abuse by priests to seek legal compensation.
The New Jersey legislation allows child victims to sue up until they turn 55 or within seven years of their first realization that the abuse caused them harm. Previously, the statute of limitations was 20 years or two years after they realized the abuse caused harm.
CBS News reported that the New Jersey Catholic diocese, like many across the U.S. had filed for bankruptcy amidst a number of lawsuits. In fact, the New Jersey Catholic diocese faced up to 55 lawsuits as per court records, as caused by the relaxed statute of limitation.
In 2019 alone, New Jersey's five Catholic dioceses named over 180 priests who were credibly accused of sexually abusing minors over the span of several decades. This on top of more than two dozen other states that named suspected abusers after a landmark grand jury report in Pennsylvania in 2018. Many of the priests on the list were deceased, while those who remained were removed from ministry.