The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has established an out-of-court compensation fund for the victims of clergy sexual abuse, to be overseen by a cadre of former government officials, including onetime interim Philadelphia District Attorney Kelley Hodge.
Hodge, along with former Philadelphia-based federal Judge Lawrence Stengel, sits on the church fund’s Independent Oversight Committee, which is tasked with ensuring that the compensation program retains “autonomy” from the church. Former Senate Majority Leader George Mitchell will serve on the panel as well.
Last year, Hodge took over the District Attorney’s Office when former DA Seth Williams was sent to prison after pleading guilty to taking bribes.
Additionally, Hodge was previously the University of Virginia’s first Title IX coordinator—a post that was carved out following a sex scandal based on an article from Rolling Stone that was later retracted—and is no stranger to handling high-profile matters.
Another Philadelphia District Attorney’s Office alum, John Delaney, is also involved with the “Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program” as the head of its Office of Investigation. Delaney was formerly first assistant to Williams.
Delaney, a prosecutor for 36 years, worked in the DA’s Office during the prosecution of Monsignor William Lynn, the first Catholic Church administrator to be convicted of endangering children—although his conviction was ultimately overturned by the Pennsylvania Supreme Court.
Lynn had served as secretary for clergy for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, and in that role supervised priests including Edward Avery, who molested a 10-year-old altar boy and pleaded guilty in 2012 to involuntary deviate sexual intercourse and conspiracy to endanger the welfare of children.
Hodge and Delaney did not respond to requests for comment. Stengel, reached Thursday afternoon, said, “I am honored and pleased to serve on the Independent Oversight Committee for the Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program,” reserving further comment for a press conference to be held next week.
Claims submitted to the fund—which is intended for those victims unable to file lawsuits because of the statute of limitations—will be administered by Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros.
Feinberg previously served as special master for the September 11th Victim Compensation Fund. He also administered the Aurora Colorado Victim Relief Fund, the BP Oil-Gulf Coast Claims Facility and the GM Ignition Compensation Claims Resolution Facility, among others.
Biros has worked as a claims administrator for compensation programs for the victims of clergy sex abuse in New York.
Archbishop Charles Chaput announced the fund on Thursday.
“The damage done to innocent young people and their families by sexual abuse in the past is profound,” Chaput said in a statement. “It can’t be erased by apologies, no matter how sincere. Money can’t buy back a wounded person’s wholeness. But what compensation can do is acknowledge the evil done, and help survivors recover their dignity and peace.”
The Philadelphia Archdiocese’s establishment of the fund comes in the wake of a bombshell grand jury report detailing 70 years of sex abuse in Pennsylvania dioceses that was released by state Attorney General Josh Shapiro in August. The report said that 301 priests had molested nearly 1,000 children during that time. It also pointed to a concerted cover-up effort orchestrated by the highest echelons of the church to make it all disappear.
Although the report names many of the abusive priests, it was redacted to remove the names of some of the alleged abusers who claim that the grand jury proceedings violated their due process rights. The Pennsylvania Supreme Court is set to decide whether the report will remain redacted in that way.
In response to the announcement of the fund on Thursday, Shapiro responded that it was an acknowledgement of wrongdoing by the church.
“It’s now clear that the dioceses acknowledge the grand jury accurately unearthed horrific and extensive abuse and cover up and, as a result, victims deserve compensation no matter when their abuse happened,” Shapiro said. “However, the grand jury recommended that victims deserve their day in court—not that the church should be the arbiter of its own punishment. These undefined compensation funds do not give a pass to lawmakers—the Legislature should return to Harrisburg, do their jobs and pass the grand jury’s four reforms.”