If this were a sincere attempt on the part of the church to take responsibility for all the harm that’s been done, it would be a good start. But we shouldn’t take the IRCP at face value. Cardinal Dolan and Bishops DiMarzio and Barres can see the writing on the wall. Every year they see support building for reforming New York State’s archaic Statute of Limitations (SOL) for child sexual abuse; a law currently written in a way which practically guarantees perpetrators of that crime will never have to face their accusers.
Putting aside the self-preserving motivation of the church’s hierarchy, this is definitely better than continuing to deny responsibility, and for some survivors it may even be a long overdue lifesaver.
But as everyday citizens learn about this injustice it becomes harder for politicians, at the behest of lobbyists hired by these same bishops, to block the Child Victims Act (CVA). The passage of a CVA, with a “look-back window” that can identify today’s predators by exposing their past crimes, is what they fear. So they need to get out ahead of it in order to protect both the church’s reputation and wealth.
After a claimant’s story is deemed credible, and the harm done to the survivor is somehow assigned a value, an offer is made and the survivor can choose to accept it, or not. It is left up to the survivor to disclose any information they wish, but the Church chooses to not release any of what it knows. Every claim is kept separate and every survivor is kept in the dark. Withholding this information shows the church to be more interested in self preservation than helping those it hurt. If reconciliation and compensation were really the goal, that information would be used to validate a survivor’s story and help heal their trauma. The recent #MeToo movement has shown the strength in coming together in numbers. It is clear the church prefers a divide and conquer strategy.
When survivors have the ability to bring civil suits against their alleged abusers, the church can be made to produce requested records. Bringing to light what bishops, past and present, knew and when they knew it, could make them liable for secretly moving accused clergy from parish to parish, exposing and endangering more children. Through civil lawsuits the utilization of secrecy and obfuscation to protect the church, and ignore the victims, has been revealed in diocese after diocese across the country.
Preventing that exposure is the real aim of the church’s leaders in introducing these plans. By reaching settlements that prohibit future litigation, with as many “credible” survivors as possible, they can mitigate the risk of their secrets being found out. And by spending millions of dollars on lobbying efforts to prevent the CVA from passing they can lure survivors into thinking the IRCPs are the best options they will ever have.
It isn’t compassion that’s behind the church’s outreach to survivors. It’s survival.