‘Important for closure’: Diocese of Camden reaches $87.5 million settlement with sex abuse victims

Though the money is important, an attorney says the settlement means validation for his clients and having "their voice heard."

The exterior of a church in South Jersey

The Diocese of Camden encompasses six counties in southern New Jersey on the outskirts of Philly. (Google Maps)

The Diocese of Camden has agreed to a settlement with about 300 victims of sex abuse. The deal between the Catholic diocese and the Survivors’ Network is believed to be one of the largest cash settlements between the church and victims.

As part of the settlement, the diocese agreed to pay $87.5 million over the course of four years to establish a trust to compensate survivors. The settlement also includes maintaining or enhancing protocols to protect children, like background checks, fingerprints, and training on what to look out for regarding sexual predators.

As part of the enhancement, the diocese will follow a previous court order to release more records documenting abuse, according to Jeffrey Prol, an attorney representing the Survivors Committee.

In addition, the settlement will allow attorneys to sue the insurance companies for liability, which Prol said, could cost them “hundreds of millions of dollars.”

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A federal bankruptcy judge would have to approve the settlement before it takes effect.

Both sides said they are pleased that a settlement has been reached. Prol said greater than the money being paid, what’s most important to his clients is having “their voice heard.”

Mark Crawford, leader of the New Jersey chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), agrees with that point. He said the settlement is important for closure.

“It’s important for these victims to feel validated,” Crawford said. “What victims want more than anything is an acknowledgment, validation and they want the whole truth.”

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The settlement comes almost two years after the Camden diocese suspended its participation in the Independent Victim Compensation Program (IVCP), a fund created by the Catholic dioceses in the Garden State to compensate victims of clergy sex abuse. The diocese would file for bankruptcy a couple of months later citing revenue losses due to the millions it paid out to victims at that point and the pandemic having an effect on in-person donations at masses.

Crawford said the settlement would not have happened without the Legislature, which in 2019 raised the statute of limitations on filing lawsuits against the church, while providing a two-year window for all past victims of clergy sex abuse.

Legislative action followed several dioceses in the state releasing the names of nearly 200 deacons and priests who had credible accusations against them, five months after then-Attorney General Gurbir Grewal opened a criminal investigation.

Bishop Dennis Sullivan, leader of the diocese, expressed his “sincere apology to all those who have been affected by sexual abuse in our Diocese” while offering his prayers to them.

“I pledge my continuing commitment to ensure that this terrible chapter in the history of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey never happens again,” he said.

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