A New Jersey diocese agreed to pay $87.5 million to compensate about 300 victims of sexual abuse by priests in the 1970s and 1980s, a still "partial" deal according to one of the plaintiffs' attorneys.

This agreement unveiled on Tuesday adds to a long list of precedents in the United States, where the Catholic Church has been shaken for years by investigations and revelations of sexual violence.

According to the classification kept by the site bishop-accountability.org, it is one of the most important sums, only four agreements having exceeded 100 million dollars since the beginning of the 2000s. The bishop of the diocese of Camden, located in southern New Jersey, Dennis J. Sullivan, issued in a statement his "sincere apologies to all who have been victims of sexual abuse in [his] diocese", reaffirming his commitment that "this terrible chapter (…) will never happen again”.

A possibility for victims to take legal action

The diocese filed for bankruptcy in 2020 to handle compensation for victims and later released the names of 56 priests and one deacon "credibly accused of sexual abuse of minors", most in the 1970s and 80 on teenagers.

The funds will be paid into a trust responsible for compensating the victims.

But, according to one of the plaintiffs' lawyers, Jeff Anderson, it is a "partial agreement", which still leaves the possibility for victims to take legal action "against the insurance companies" representing the diocese, who "did not play the game by refusing to honor their obligations".

According to the lawyer, the agreement also provides for “child protection measures” being finalized.

"Thus", assures the lawyer, "the diocese will be required to disclose the history of the abuses committed".

Like other states in the country, New Jersey had passed a law allowing victims to sue regardless of statutes of limitations.


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