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Colorado’s priest abuse reparations program has paid more than $3 million to 28 victims so far

The program, which was announced in October, stems from a massive review of church files that revealed abuses of 166 children going back decades.

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The Catholic Church so far has paid more than $3 million to 28 victims of priest abuse in Colorado as part of a review of claims by an independent committee. 

The work of the oversight committee is ongoing, but its leaders announced Wednesday that they have received claims from 91 victims of abuse by priests who worked in one of Colorado’s three dioceses.

The Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program, which began in October, is run by Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros, who handled similar compensation programs for priest abuse victims in New York, New Jersey, California and Pennsylvania. The three dioceses in Colorado — Denver, Colorado Springs and Pueblo —  agreed when the program was announced to abide by the administrators’ compensation determinations. 

The paid claims include at least one from each of the dioceses, program spokeswoman Amy Weiss said.

The reparations program comes after a massive review of the church’s files by an independent investigator. 

That investigation resulted in a 263-page report released in October that detailed the abuse of 166 children since 1950. Dioceses in Colorado, like those across the country, had expunged files and covered up abuse for decades.

MORE: A Denver priest — his dad’s best friend — raped him. The state’s Catholic Church abuse report revealed the secret.

The report accused 43 priests, although most of the abuse was committed by five. 

Victims who are awarded money through the reparations program can decline the funds, but to date, none have done so, according to the program administrators. Of the 91 people who applied to the program, 37 have already received final determination letters. Those who accept money are required to sign a waiver saying they will not file a lawsuit against the church.

Program administrators said they expect it will take a few more months to finish reviewing the claims. 

The church is paying the claims through existing assets, specifically a risk management fund, said Mark Haas, spokesman for the Archdiocese of Denver.

Archbishop Samuel Aquila previously said that “while money can’t heal wounds, it can acknowledge the evil that was done and help restore peace and dignity to the survivors.”

“The damage inflicted upon young people and their families by sexual abuse, especially when it’s committed by a trusted person like a priest, is profound,” Aquila said.

The reparation fund was a joint project by the state attorney general’s office and the Catholic Church. It is independent of church control and is overseen by a committee headed by former U.S. Sen. Hank Brown.

Attorney General Phil Weiser called the payouts “an important step in Colorado’s effort to address this tragic chapter in our state’s history.”

“It provides a number of survivors of sexual abuse much deserved compensation that will support their efforts and better enable them to heal from the pain they have endured,” he said in an emailed statement.

Rising Sun