September 15, 2019
Dear Brothers and Sisters,
Pope Francis recently wrote that, “The crimes of sexual abuse offend Our Lord; cause physical, psychological and spiritual damage to the victims; and harm the community of the faithful. It is good that procedures be universally adopted to prevent and combat these crimes that betray the trust of the faithful.” I could not agree more but in addition to ‘preventing’ and ‘combating’, I would add ‘healing’ and ‘helping’ whenever possible. The participation of the Diocese of Fresno and five other California dioceses in what is called the Independent Compensation Program for Victim-Survivors of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests (ICP) is an honest attempt to do precisely that. Effective September 16, 2019, the ICP will begin to accept registrations from victims.
You should know that the ICP will be headed up by nationally recognized dispute resolution administrators, Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros, and that they will act entirely independently from the Church. Their administration of the program will have the added benefit of being overseen by an independent oversight committee consisting of Leon Panetta who has served in several different public office positions, including the Secretary of Defense, Director of the CIA, White House Chief of Staff, Director of the Office of Management and Budget, and as a U.S. Representative from California., Gov. Gray Davis (ret.) and the Hon. Maria Contreras-Sweet, former Secretary of Business, Transportation and Housing in California, and former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration.
It may be helpful to remember that in the past twenty years, Catholic dioceses in California have worked to provide assistance to victim-survivors of abuse that included counseling and other support. In addition, close to 1.5 billion dollars has been paid to victim-survivors during that same time frame in an effort to acknowledge responsibility for grave offenses committed by clergy and to compensate victims for their suffering and pain.
Between safe environment training sessions for thousands of adults and children, training in abuse prevention and reporting, fingerprinting of clergy, religious, employees and volunteers, background checks and many other initiatives, much has been done to protect all children entrusted to our care and ministry. These are major steps toward prevention and healing but much more remains to be done. The ICP is certainly one more step in the right direction and I urge you to learn more about this important program by going to their website: www.CaliforniaDiocesesICP.com.
Nothing can really make up for the damage done to a child or the family of a child who has been harmed and abused by an adult. Neither does closure come through compensation but only by the loving, caring and vigilant presence of a family and, hopefully, a community of faith. All victim-survivors deserve a voice and all the dignity, peace and respect that can be sent their way.
In regards to how the ICP will be funded, be assured that donations received through the parish offertory, annual appeals/campaigns or other restricted funds WILL NOT be used. There will be no closure of parishes or schools as a result of our participation in the ICP, or the discontinuance of any essential ministries. Funding will come from our diocesan reserves, liquidation of assets, insurance when applicable, and the reduction of operational costs where possible.
For more local information such as responses to frequently asked questions please visit our diocesan website at https://dioceseoffresno.org
Most Reverend Joseph V. Brennan, D.D.
Bishop, Diocese of Fresno