June 29, 2022
Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger is reaching out to announce another path for Victims/Survivors in the Albany Roman Catholic Diocese. This is a proposal to the Victims/Survivors and the Court overseeing the New York State Child Victims Act (CVA) lawsuits.
Attached are a letter from Bishop Scharfenberger explaining the thought process that led to this plan, along with an overview of the proposal.
Another Path for Survivors?
Having learned so much from survivors, their friends and family members, and their stories of abuse, I feel deeply for all those who have painfully spoken and patiently awaited the justice promised by the New York State Child Victims Act (CVA). Many suffer in silence with no one to share their story with. While I will continue to do all in my power to assist and accompany survivors and loved ones in recovery, including in their spiritual healing, I understand that my efforts are naturally difficult to trust. It will be hard for many to believe that I am acting or speaking from my heart, or that what I do or say is credible. I still believe it is worth reaching out to survivors and their loved ones at this juncture to describe a path to justice for all survivors under the CVA.
Currently, two divergent courses of action are shaping up in the diocese of Albany. One is the path of litigation; the other is to file for bankruptcy (Chapter 11). In either scenario, the amount of funds available to be disbursed to survivors is the same. A third option, however, would secure the greatest portion of these finite funds for all, not just a few, survivors who have filed claims under the CVA.
This alternative plan has evolved over many months, as a team of legal and financial experts have developed a way to distribute these funds so that survivors share them equitably, instead of those who sued first depleting them, leaving less or no funds for those who sued later. The third alternative also ensures the greatest portion of the funds will go to survivors, and less for legal and court fees.
I am aware that offending institutions are not owed, and cannot assume, trust in their credibility or even good faith, so it seems best simply to put the plan out there and to let it stand or fall on its own merits. I believe this proposal is a just one, treating all survivors equally, developed in consultation with Hon. Joan Feeney, a former bankruptcy judge and in which the Court, overseeing the CVA litigation in Albany, has shown interest.
The full plan will soon be released. A brief summary is attached. It shows a framework for settlements both possible and equitable. Every survivor would be able to make his or her case under judicial oversight and with the assistance of a mediation team agreed to by all parties. Prior to any settlement, a thorough and unbiased audit of the assets available will be undertaken so no hidden corners are left. Participants are free to retain counsel and seek additional assistance from the diocese through canonical process, accompanied by an Assistance Coordinator.
Financial aid or recovery alone does not address the substantial emotional, spiritual and relationship wounds of any survivor. One step of amends is a vigorous program of child-protection in all church settings which relies on broad training and empowerment to identify and report suspected abuse of minors. Another is a diversity of pastoral and spiritually healing options for those survivors and loved ones who have asked for care. It is important to keep in mind always that healing is far more than a monetary matter. This alternative to the costly options of litigation or bankruptcy is, I hope, a step through the financial issues so we may open healing dialogue for those who are interested -- whenever, now or later, they may be interested. For my part, I remain a pastor who cares very much for survivors, seeking to walk with them, to listen and to learn, so that no one may be on this journey towards healing alone.
Faithfully yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Edward B. Scharfenberger
Bishop of Albany
OUTLINE OF VICTIMS/SURVIVORS PATH FORWARD PLAN
· The Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany has formulated a Victims/Survivors Path Forward Plan in order to provide a framework under the supervision of the Supreme Court of the State of New York, to compensate the Victim/Survivors of abuse who were tragically harmed by persons purporting to do the work of the Roman Catholic Church. The objective of the Plan is to maximize the monetary recovery for Victim/Survivors on a fair and equitable basis and to accelerate the payments to Victim/Survivors.
· The Plan provides for a Court-approved mediation process in order to resolve the more than 400 Victim/Survivor cases pending before the Supreme Court. The diocese seeks to avoid the costly expenses and prolonged delays that would otherwise be associated with continued litigation with plaintiffs and their counsel and insurers and their counsel or a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization case.
· Under the Plan, representatives of the Diocese and its affiliates, insurers, and Victim/Survivors will participate in a mediation under the supervision of an agreed neutral mediator for the purpose of: creating a fund based upon negotiated contributions of the Diocese, its affiliates, and insurers; determining and paying Victim/Survivor claims; and establishing protocols and remediation procedures to redress allegations of and prevent abuse.
June 29, 2022