BINGHAMTON (WSKG) — In February, the Syracuse Roman Catholic Diocese announced a program to compensate people who were sexually abused by clergy when they were children.
The diocese stretches from Oswego south to the Pennsylvania border and includes the Binghamton area.
The Syracuse version is modeled after similar programs in the New York, Brooklyn and Rockville Centre Dioceses, but there’s a difference with this one.
Just like the other dioceses, Syracuse has a phase one of the program where the diocese plans to compensate people in known cases.
However, it hasn’t decided if it will enact phase two. In those downstate dioceses, phase two allowed for people making new allegations to come forward.
“They were all allowed to come in, after phase one was done, they could submit their claim,” said Mike Reck, an attorney who represents victims in the downstate dioceses. He also represents victims in Syracuse. “It was subject to review and scrutiny and then those survivors were also offered inclusion in the [program].”
“Syracuse has not done that. They have stopped short of even what the other dioceses have already done,” Reck added.
Right now, people with known allegations have until mid-May to submit claims. After that, the diocese plans to decide on phase two.
“I might speculate that the timing of it is curious because phase two, if they had phase two, would likely start right around the time that the legislative session ends,” Reck said.
That legislative session ends in June.
The question is whether the diocese is pushing this program now to settle with known victims and avoid potential legal fees before the Child Victims Act can pass. The bill is gaining support in New York. It would make it easier to bring old cases to court.
If the diocese is truly trying to say it’s sorry, why not promise to include a phase two right now?
“I don’t find it disingenuous at all,” said Danielle Cummings, a spokeswoman for the Diocese of Syracuse.
The decision to wait has less to do with the Child Victims Act and more to do with money and resources, she said. Syracuse is smaller than those downstate dioceses and wants to make sure it can handle compensating the people with the known allegations first.
“I think we’re being straight forward in saying we’re not able to come up with a phase two yet until we see the outcome of phase one,” Cummings explained.
Part of that outcome is how many people choose to participate. The diocese sent invitations to 76 with known allegations for phase one. In Reck’s experience, even more people come forward in phase two.