BINGHAMTON, NY (WSKG) — It’s been about a week since the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester ended its compensation program for people who had been abused by clergy as children.
Lawyer Leander James represents several of survivors who were going through the compensation program. He’s still trying to make sense of it.
The Rochester Diocese stretches from Lake Ontario through the Finger Lakes south to the Pennsylvania border.
Diocese officials said they were re-evaluating the best course of action in the wake of an influx of litigation due to a new law in New York. The Child Victims Act extends the statute of limitations to file a claim and creates a one-year look back for people who were previously barred to bring their case to court.
To James, re-evaluating the best course of action is “PR speak.”
“I don’t think it is the real reason the diocese did what it did,” he said.
The Child Victims Act was expected to pass for a few months before it actually did. James said the fact that its law now isn’t a big surprise.
“Now, all I have for my clients is litigation,” James said. “File lawsuits and pursue them to jury verdicts. That’s the only option I have and that’s not the best environment for all people to heal over and move on.”
A handful of people have already settled their cases with an independent mediator running the program. James said they should still get their money.
Some of his other clients wanted to pursue the program. They liked that they could speak to the mediator in person.
Now, they’re not happy.
“Well, anywhere from absolute outrage and some so far who weren’t planning to file any lawsuits, who wanted to avoid that and wouldn’t do it, frankly, now want to file a lawsuit,” James said.
In other upstate compensation programs, the diocese stays out of the settlement process. But, according to WHAM-TV, Rochester’s ABC affiliate, the diocese was trying to give extra input to the independent mediator running the program before he made settlement offers.
The diocese said it was only trying to give input in certain cases. Like where the accused is dead or incapacitated. It wanted to ensure due process.