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Colorado Catholic church abuse compensation program details revealed

An initiative to create an Independent Compensation Program was launched in February.

DENVER — A new program was revealed Monday morning that will provide compensation and support for victims who have been sexually abused as minors by clergy of the Archdiocese of Denver, Diocese of Colorado Springs and Diocese of Pueblo. 

In February, the Colorado Office of the Attorney General, the Archdiocese of Denver, Diocese of Colorado Springs, and Diocese of Pueblo announced a new initiative to assist survivors of priest sexual abuse by launching an Independent Compensation Program (ICP).

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To ensure the program’s complete independence from church influence, independent claims administrators Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros will administer the program, and an Independent Oversight Committee will oversee this effort.

The administrators sent out packets to 65 people who had previously reported being abused by diocesan priests to church officials. People who have not previously reported abuse have until Nov. 30 to contact the program to start the process of filing a claim.

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All claims must be filed by Jan. 31 and can only be made concerning clergy who worked for Colorado dioceses, not members of independent religious orders.

Feinberg said he has the final say on compensation awards and his decisions cannot be appealed. However, he said victims could wait to decide what the offer was before deciding to accept it. If they do accept it, they would have to agree not to sue the church. Victims could also receive a hearing to talk about what happened to them, something Feinberg said is sometimes more important.

"It means a huge amount to some people," he said at a press conference with Weiser and members of a volunteer board led by former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown that will oversee the process.

Payments are usually determined within 90 to 120 days, co-administrator Camille Biros said. The identities of those filing claims will not be made public.

Feinberg said Colorado's program is very similar to those he is administrating for Catholic dioceses in four other states— California, New York, New Jersey and Pennsylvania. Payments in other state have ranged from $10,000 to $500,000, he said.

The review of church records is being conducted by Colorado's former U.S. Attorney Bob Troyer. It was originally expected to be released by October but Weiser said Monday it would be released later in the fall. He said the goal was to have it available before the Nov. 30 deadline for starting the claims process.

If any individual knows or suspects child abuse by anyone acting on behalf of the Archdiocese of Denver or on behalf of the Catholic parishes and schools within the archdiocese, they're urged to immediately report it to law enforcement or to the Colorado Child Abuse Reporting Hotline at 844-CO-4-KIDS and also to notify the Archdiocese of Denver Office of Child and Youth Protection at 720-239-2832.

RELATED: Letter alleging Colorado Catholic priest's abuse found a decade after the author took his own life

To submit a report as part of the independent review, please visit: coag.gov/ReportAbuse 

Denver Archbishop Samuel J. Aquila released the following statement on the opening of the program:

“The damage inflicted upon young people and their families by sexual abuse, especially when it’s committed by a trusted person like a priest, is profound. And while money can’t heal wounds, it can acknowledge the evil that was done and help restore peace and dignity to the survivors. 

We hope that this independent program creates a simple and nonadversarial means for survivors to have their stories heard and be provided with resources to aid in their continued healing. No matter how long ago the abuse occurred, we hope anyone who is still suffering in silence will be encouraged to come forward. If any survivor also wishes to meet personally with me, my door will be open. 

And to our current priests, deacons, parish staffs and Catholic faithful: Thank-you for your decades of work that have transformed the Church into one of the safest environments in Colorado for children. Please join me in praying for the continued healing of all survivors of sexual abuse. May we keep our eyes fixed on Jesus Christ, who alone can provide peace and comfort.”

A letter from Aquila about the program and upcoming report was read to parishioners at Denver area churches over the weekend. It said that claims would be paid out of the diocese's reserves and assets rather than donations to parishes, ministries and schools.

The Archdiocese also noted that there have been no reports of sexual abuse of a minor by an archdiocesan priest in 20 years.

The Associated Press contributed to this report.

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