New Jersey Catholic Diocese to Pay $87.5 Million to Settle Sexual Abuse Lawsuits: NPR

TRENTON, NJ — A New Jersey Catholic diocese has agreed to pay $87.5 million to settle clergy sexual abuse claims involving approximately 300 alleged victims in one of the largest cash settlements involving the Catholic Church in the United States is involved.

The agreement between the Diocese of Camden, which includes six counties in southern New Jersey on the outskirts of Philadelphia, and plaintiffs filed Tuesday in U.S. bankruptcy court in Camden.

The settlement has yet to come before a US bankruptcy judge. If approved, the settlement would exceed the 2003 settlement of nearly $85 million in the Boston clergy abuse scandal, although it is less than other settlements in California and Oregon.

“I want to offer my sincere apologies to everyone who has been affected by sexual abuse in our diocese,” Bishop Dennis Sullivan said in a statement. “My prayers go out to all survivors of abuse and I pledge my continued commitment to ensure that this terrible chapter in the history of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey never happens again.”

Details of what would have happened to the approximately 300 victims were not included in the proposed settlement, according to a lawyer for approximately 70 of the victims.

“This settlement with the Bishop of Camden is a powerful step forward in liability,” said Jeff Anderson, an attorney representing 74 of the approximately 300 survivors. “The credit goes to the survivors for standing up for themselves and the truth.”

The alleged sexual abuse took place over decades

The alleged sexual abuse took place from the 1950s to the 1990s, Anderson said, but mostly occurred in the 1960s and 1970s.

The diocese said the deal calls for the creation of a trust, which will be funded in four years’ time by the diocese and “related Catholic entities” to compensate survivors of sexual abuse. Part of the deal also requires maintaining or “improving” protocols to protect children.

Abusive survivors who filed a bankruptcy claim could be awarded $290,000, according to attorneys for victims Jay Mascolo and Jason Amala.

The agreement comes more than two years after New Jersey extended the statute of limitations to allow victims of sexual abuse by priests to seek legal damages. The legislation allows underage victims to sue until they turn 55 or within seven years of first realizing that the abuse caused them harm. The previous statute of limitations was 20 or two years after it was first realized that the abuse caused harm.

The diocese, like others across the country, had filed for bankruptcy amid a flurry of lawsuits — up to 55, according to court records — over the relaxed statute of limitations.

In 2019, New Jersey’s five Catholic dioceses listed more than 180 priests credibly accused of sexually abusing minors over a span of several decades, joining more than two dozen other states that have named suspected abusers in the aftermath of a historic Pennsylvania grand jury report in 2018.

Many priests on the lists had died and others were removed from office.

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