Reiterating that reconciliation “is a defining aspect” of the Catholic Diocese of Richmond’s bicentennial year, Bishop Barry C. Knestout released a report Thursday, Oct. 15 summarizing the results of the Independent Reconciliation Program (IRP) — a program administered by an independent arbiter and designed to offer assistance to victims of clergy sexual abuse in the diocese.
“If we are, in fact, to give authentic witness to the words of the prophet Isaiah, proclaimed by Jesus in the synagogue, that we are ‘to proclaim a year acceptable to the Lord’ (Lk 4:19), then the repair offered by the Independent Reconciliation Program must be a part of it,” the bishop stated in a letter to the faithful on the day the IRP report was released.
The bishop continued, “As you will read in the report (https://assistance.richmonddiocese.org.), the IRP was able to provide recompense for more than 50 victim survivors, and while we can never undo the pain they experienced and continue to experience, we hope this program helps bring them some sense of greater peace and continued healing.”
The diocese secured the services of BrownGreer, PLC, a Richmond-based and nationally recognized firm specializing in claims administration. Lynn Crowder Greer designed and administered the program for the diocese. Her firm developed criteria for eligible individuals to submit a claim. Greer, the claims administrator, held complete and exclusive discretion to decide who should receive payment and the amount of each offer.
Fulfillment of a commitment
From the 68 claims that were initiated, 60 were considered eligible. Of those, nine were denied by the administrator. Offers totaling $6.3 million were made to 51 victim survivors, all of whom accepted them.
The IRP, whose establishment the diocese announced on Monday, Feb. 17, 2020, is fulfillment of a commitment Bishop Knestout made in 2018 that the diocese provide what he termed at that time “a tangible sign, a practical expression of our desire to repair the damage that has been done.”
The IRP report states, “All individuals participating in the Program, even those who have accepted a monetary payment, will forever retain the right to discuss their claim and their abuse. The claims process did not involve confidentiality agreements.”
It further notes that by “accepting a monetary payment as part of the Independent Reconciliation Program, individuals waived any future civil legal claim against the Richmond Diocese related to their sexual abuse claims.”
How the IRP is funded
According to the IRP report, the diocese funded the program through its self-insurance program, a loan, and contributions from other religious orders, where appropriate.
“The diocese did not use parish or school assets. No donor restricted contributions or restricted endowments, including those in the Catholic Community Foundation and the McMahon-Parater Scholarship Foundation were used to support the Program,” the report stated. “Nor was any money given by the faithful to support the Annual Diocesan Appeal or the Living Our Mission campaign used to fund the Program.”
In concluding his letter, Bishop Knestout said that completion of the IRP is not a conclusion of the diocese’s efforts to provide for victim survivors.
“Our outreach is ongoing,” he wrote. “We must, and we will, continue to meet victim survivors with support and compassion motivated by our shared love of Jesus Christ.”