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Legislation gives abuse victims new option

By Bishop Terry R. LaValley

Aug. 28, 2019

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ:

As you know, last year the Diocese of Ogdensburg conducted an Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) that offered victims of child sex abuse, perpetrated by some clergy of our Diocese, pastoral assistance including counseling and financial compensation. Under this program, the claims made by thirty-eight individuals were settled ($5.5 million) and our diocesan attorney settled fourteen additional claims ($1.1 million).

Earlier this year, Governor Cuomo signed the Child Victims Act (CVA). New York State has given individuals a new option under the CVA: the right to sue for compensation. This legislation extended the statute of limitations on criminal cases involving certain sex offences against children under the age of eighteen; extended the time within which civil actions based on such criminal conduct may be brought until the child is fifty years old; and opened a one-year window reviving civil actions for which the statute of limitations has already run. This “window” of legal opportunity began on August 14th and runs through August 13, 2020.

Since August 14, sixteen individuals have exercised this option and filed lawsuits against the Church here in the North Country. These lawsuits are claims of sexual abuse that occurred between 1959 and 1999. We were aware of seven of these claims inasmuch as we addressed them as part of the IRCP program. In one case, on August 15 the name of one of our priests was made public whose allegation was rigorously investigated by the Diocesan Lay Review Board at the time the allegation was received. The Board advised me that this was not a credible allegation. The retired priest remains in good standing in the Church. The lawsuit, based on that same claim, therefore, does not change his status.

The Diocese of Ogdensburg is not aware of any cleric in ministry in our diocese, active or retired, who has had credible allegations of abuse lodged against him. We have had Safe Environment Policies and a reporting structure in place for years and will continue to accept any reports of abuse through our Victims Assistant Coordinator or Vicar for Clergy. We remain extremely vigilant in providing safe environments for all who come to us. The protection of our children is of paramount importance. I invite you to review our Safe Environment Program and reporting procedures at: www.rcdony.org/safeenv.html.

Since cases are now in the process of litigation, no comments can be offered about them. We continue to pray for the healing of all victims of abuse wherever and whenever it occurred.

Faithfully yours in Christ,

Most Reverend
Terry R. LaValley
Bishop of Ogdensburg

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