SOCIAL ISSUES

Abuse survivors mistrust compensation offer by NJ Catholic Church

BY Michael Hill, Correspondent |

Kevin Waldrip says a Newark priest sexually abused him in the 1960s and ruined his life, rendering him incapable of functioning. He wants now from the catholic church what he’s always demanded.

“Come clean so people can get on with their lives,” he said.

Waldrip wants New Jersey lawmakers to approve the Child Victims Act. It would remove the statute of limitations to sue for sexual abuse. Versions of the bill have stalled in the Legislature for years. Two months ago, the state attorney general formed a task force with subpoena powers to investigate decades of clergy abuse in New Jersey.

On Monday, Cardinal Joseph Tobin announced the Victims Compensation and Counseling Program for New Jersey dioceses “to compensate victims of child sexual abuse whose financial claims are legally barred by New Jersey’s statute of limitations. This will give victims a formal voice and allow them to be heard by an independent panel. The cardinal says, “the program also will assure that victims who have not received any financial compensation will be paid, regardless of whether their claims meet the time requirements of the statute of limitations. … The program also would provide permanent funding to counsel victims.”

State lawmakers praised the church. “We should carefully consider this potential program because victims deserve to have their claims validated and they are owed a true measure of justice,” said Assemblywoman Gabriela Mosquera, who chairs the Women and Children Committee.

“I believe we should pause so that any legislation can be informed and shaped by the results of this program,” said Sen. Paul Sarlo.

Critics charge the catholic church is trying to circumvent the need for a law that would lift the statute of limitations on child sex abuse.

“What they’re trying to do is they’re trying to sound beneficent. They’re trying to sound generous by saying ‘We’re even going to pay those whose claims do not meet the statutory regulations.’ But, that’s the issue. The issue is it shouldn’t matter. There should be no statute of limitations on the sexual abuse of a child. So we want the legislators to listen very carefully to the language that these men are going to present to them regarding this bill, and we want the bill to be passed,” said Robert Hoatson, co-founder and president of Road to Recovery.

An archdiocesan spokesperson said the church welcomes constructive criticism and for nearly two decades it’s been compensating abuse victims even when the statute of limitations expired, and it understands the skepticism and mistrust. But the spokesperson urged patience with this process.

Survivors said justice shouldn’t be denied another second.