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New York Catholic Archdiocese sets up independent sex-abuse victim compensation fund

On Thursday, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the New York Archdiocese, announced the formation of "an independent reconciliation and compensation program" for people who were sexually abused by Roman Catholic clergy. The new program, believed to be the first of its kind in the nation, will be headed by Kenneth Feinberg — who has run similar compensation programs for victims of the 9/11 attacks, Boston Marathon bombing, BP oil spill, and Pulse nightclub shooting in Orlando — and overseen by an independent, non-church panel made up of former NYPD commissioner Raymond Kelly, federal judge Loretta Preska, and Columbia psychiatry professor Dr. Jeanette Cueva.

Feinberg and fellow mediator Camille S. Biros will determine the amount of compensation for any purported abuse victims who sign up for the program, and neither the oversight panel nor the archdioceses will be able to appeal the amount. There is no monetary limit, and the archdioceses says it is taking out a loan to cover the expected millions in compensation. So far, about 170 people have come forward and said they were abused by some 40 priests over the past 40 or 50 years, the archdiocese said, and those survivors will be the first group eligible to apply. After January, the archdiocese said it will encourage other victims to sign on, and it pledged to work with law enforcement to investigate any living clergy implicated.

Dolan called sex abuse a "nauseating crime" that has "gravely wounded us in the church," and said he was motivated by Pope Francis to create the new program. Critics note that the New York State legislature is working on a new law that would extend the statue of limitations for sexual abuse cases, opening the archdiocese up to new lawsuits. They also point out that people who agree to compensation under the program will sign away the right to sue the archdiocese for their abuse. Feinberg said that's how such compensation programs work. "If an individual claimant wants the compensation," he said, "that's a decision the individual should be able to make." You can learn more in the Associated Press video below. Peter Weber