In one of the largest settlements of its kind in American history, the diocese of Camden, New Jersey, has settled around 300 claims that its priests sexually abused clergy members when they were children. The settlement figure, $87.5 million, is one of the highest ever involving the Catholic Church and sexual abuse litigation in this country. And it could go substantially higher.
The Camden diocese had previously admitted that at least 56 priests and one deacon connected to the diocese had been credibly accused of abusing children. The funds will go into a trust, with compensation payouts to individual victims expected to average around $300,000.
Unusually, the settlement agreement may not be the end of possible compensation for victims and their families. Victims did not give up their right to pursue litigation against parishes and schools related to the diocese or the diocese’s insurance provider.
Agreement still tied up in court
Because the diocese declared bankruptcy prior to the settlement, it requires approval by the bankruptcy judge. Recently, the diocese’s insurance companies won a ruling in bankruptcy court that allows them to challenge the church’s reorganization plan related to the sexual abuse settlement.
The role of litigation in healing childhood trauma
As our readers know, the Catholic Church has been rocked by sexual abuse scandals throughout the country. While the Camden settlement is one of the largest so far, similar litigation in Oregon and California resulted in higher settlements.
Financial compensation cannot undo the emotional and psychological damage caused by sexual abuse from a priest or other church leader. But it can help victims feel that the church has paid for the abuse and its lack of effort to protect them when they needed help the most.