Colorado’s reparations program for people abused by Catholic priests when they were children has already paid out more than $1 million to nine of the 78 people who submitted claims by Friday’s filing deadline.
Another $500,000 in payments are due to four other victims and more than 60 cases still are being reviewed, said Camille Biros, one of the independent administrators of the reparations program.
The reparations program was created through a voluntary agreement between the Catholic Church and Colorado’s Attorney General’s Office after a third-party investigation into child sexual abuse by priests in the state’s three Catholic dioceses.
The investigators’ report was released in October. It found that at least 166 children had been molested by at least 43 priests since 1950.
Biros said she’s not expecting other claims to be filed since the deadline has passed. “The only way we would be expecting more is if somebody calls and there clearly is a legitimate reason why they couldn’t get it to us on time,” she said Tuesday in an interview with The Colorado Sun.
Biros and her co-administrator, Kenneth R. Feinberg, have denied three claims made to the Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program for the Archdiocese of Denver, the Diocese of Colorado Springs and the Diocese of Pueblo.
There is no limit on how much the church can pay victims through the program. Only people abused when they were children are eligible. People who were abused by a member of a religious order or clergy of another diocese are not eligible.
Biros said there is no timeline for when the reparations program will be complete.
“We’re working on several different state programs simultaneously,” she said. “I don’t have a date when this will be done. I’d like to think about three months.”
Anyone who agrees to accept reparations through the program is barred from filing a lawsuit against the church in the future. Biros said all claimants are provided a pro-bono lawyer to ensure they understand their rights.
Colorado law prevents child sexual assault victims from suing their abusers more than six years after they turn age 18. For victims who want to sue an organization that acted negligently in allowing the abuse to continue or by shielding the perpetrator, they have only two years after they turn 18.
While Colorado lawmakers this year are attempting to eliminate the statute of limitations for child sex assault cases, it doesn’t appear they will be able to give people abused in the past the opportunity to take legal action retroactively.
To be considered eligible for reparations, claimants are asked to provide medical and mental health records as well as any correspondence they may have about their abuse that came before the program was created. They are also asked to notify the Colorado district attorney where their abuse happened of their mistreatment.
The Colorado Attorney General’s Office expects a supplemental report on child sexual abuse by Colorado priests to be released sometime in the spring.
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