Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
I am writing to you today, in this season of the Resurrection of the Lord, and the new life which He offers to us, of the continuing efforts of our local Church, joined together with other Dioceses in our State, to effectively, compassionately and forthrightly meet the challenges of the consequences of child sexual abuse. These consequences have again come to the forefront this past year and certainly weigh upon us all.
Over the years, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Orange has taken important steps to strengthen and enhance its procedures to ensure that our children are protected and to comply with the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops’ adoption of the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002.
Daily, I join clergy, religious and lay staff of the Diocese of Orange in striving to make every effort to ensure the safety of our children. We have worked zealously putting the procedures, training and processes in place to ensure such. And we have taken swift action when and where necessary. As testament to our ongoing commitment, we have communicated these actions publicly on our websites www.safercbo.org and openly communicated clergy removed from ministry at www.RCBO.org/resource/chartered-priests.
These measures have been effective, both to respond to victim-survivors with compassion and to prevent, as much as possible, incidents of abuse from occurring in the future. As a result, new cases of sexual misconduct by priests involving minors are rare today in our diocese, throughout the dioceses of California and throughout the United States. We will continue to be vigilant to make certain the failings of the past are not repeated.
In our continued efforts to bring healing and justice to those who were abused by priests in the past, we announce today as a proactive measure, that we are participating in a new Independent Compensation Program for Victim-Survivors of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests, known as the Independent Compensation Program (ICP).
We are one of six dioceses in the state participating, along with the archdiocese of Los Angeles and the dioceses of Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego and Fresno.Together, these dioceses comprise more than 10 million Catholics, or about 80 percent of the state’s Catholic population. The new program is independently run and will be free from any influence of the dioceses.
Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros, nationally known mediators and private compensation program administrators, will run the program. In addition a blue ribbon panel of respected Californians, including former Gov. Gray Davis, and business leader and former U.S. Small Business Administration head, Maria Contreras-Sweet, will oversee the program.
This new program is voluntary. Victim-survivors can elect to enter this program as an alternative to pursuing their claims – which may be barred by the statute of limitations – against the Church in court. Mr. Feinberg and his firm will have complete independence and autonomy in deciding compensation for victims.
Our goal is to help victims receive compensation for their pain and suffering in an environment where they are treated with sensitivity and compassion and their privacy is respected. Victim-survivors do not need to have a lawyer to participate and there are no fees for participating. Settlements can be paid in a matter of weeks, typically within 90 days.
In our Diocese of Orange, funding will come from existing diocesan assets. No program resources will come from our Pastoral Services Appeal or donor-designated gifts, donations to parishes, ministries and schools.
This type of program has worked well in other dioceses in New York, Pennsylvania, Colorado and elsewhere. Join me in praying that this outreach in California helps bring peace and consolation to victim-survivors and their families who have experienced the horror of abuse. I pledge again today to continue to do everything in my power to ensure the safety of our young people, and to react with sympathy, understanding, and respect toward those who come forward with an allegation of abuse.
And again, I urge anyone who has an allegation of abuse of a minor to immediately report the abuse to law enforcement officials. If the allegation concerns a priest or any member of the diocese, I urge you to contact our toll-free reporting line at 1 (800) 364-3064.
We have posted a website justice.rcbo.org where you can find more information including today’s press release and Q and A. This site will host a link to Kenneth Feinberg’s site and it will go “live” once the program is launched for the Diocese of Orange in September.
With gratitude for your support and continued prayers,
Most Rev. Kevin W. Vann, J.C.D., D.D.
Bishop of Orange