Group urges legal action, not settlement
As a special tribunal began taking applications Monday for awards from a $3 million “claim resolution fund,” an advocacy group urged victims of child sexual abuse to take their claims against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Cincinnati to court instead.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said victims should boycott the application process because they are required to drop any lawsuits and forfeit their rights to bring lawsuits stemming from their abuse, even though there’s no guarantee they’ll get any money from the fund.
“There are 11 places on the first two pages (of the claim form) where we give up specific rights,” said Christy Miller, who heads SNAP’s Cincinnati chapter. “We’re giving up all the rights, they’re giving up nothing.
“First we were abused by priests. Now we’re being abused by a higher class — the archbishop and his attorneys.”
Archdiocese spokesman Dan Andriacco said the terms of the fund are reasonable.
“It’s very simple: Individuals who are eligible to participate in the fund who were abused as children are now adults. We’re confident they can make their own decisions,” Andriacco said. “That’s what it’s all about, it’s a choice. If they don’t think the fund is in their best interest, they can litigate.”
The fund was established in November as part of a plea bargain under which Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk pleaded no contest on behalf of the archdiocese as an entity to misdemeanor criminal charges of failure to report a crime. The fund is administered by a tribunal with three members: one each appointed by the archdiocese and the Hamilton County prosecutor’s office and a chairman named by the other two members.
The tribunal has been publishing ads in newspapers seeking applications, which will be accepted until Sept. 1. The ads contain a notice that claimants must give up their rights to sue the archdiocese with no guarantee of getting any compensation. The claim form has similar language.
“This is the statement of a bully, not someone that is trying to right a wrong,” SNAP said in a prepared statement.
The tribunal also is now saying the total amount awarded from the fund may be less than $3 million. The tribunal’s award decisions are final and binding, and it warned that anyone providing fraudulent information in claims can be prosecuted.
The tribunal said it will make “all reasonable efforts to keep the contents of this claim form confidential,” but reserves the right to contact people and institutions to verify victims’ claims.
“Yet these are the same people who say they won’t release the priests’ names because of confidentiality,” Miller said. “It all just stinks. We’re saying, take legal action. Do it the right way and let it play out in an unbiased court.”