The Roman Catholic Diocese of Camden, New Jersey, has agreed to pay $87.5 million in a proposed settlement with 300 survivors who accused members of the clergy of child sex abuse.
The settlement was negotiated amid an ongoing bankruptcy case after the Diocese of Camden filed for bankruptcy in October 2020. The diocese had accumulated mounting debt in the aftermath of abuse victims seeking compensation under the New Jersey Independent Victims Compensation Program.
That program—which allowed alleged victims of child abuse by diocesan priests of the Roman Catholic dioceses of Newark, Paterson, Metuchen, Trenton, and Camden to file claims—began in 2019.
The agreement filed with U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Camden on April 19 is between plaintiffs and the Diocese of Camden, which oversees nearly half a million Catholics in 62 parishes encompassing six counties in southern New Jersey: Atlantic, Camden, Cape May, Cumberland, Gloucester, and Salem.
While it still needs to be approved by a U.S. bankruptcy judge, such an approval would make it “the largest cash payment by any Catholic diocese in bankruptcy to date” in the country, according to attorneys for the plaintiffs in the lawsuits.
Under the terms of the proposed settlement, $87.5 million will go into a trust established to compensate survivors of sexual abuse within the diocese and will be paid out over a four-year period.
“The settlement also includes maintaining or enhancing the protocols for the protection of children, which were first implemented by the Diocese in 2002,” the diocese said in a statement.
In a statement announcing the settlement, Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan said the diocese was pleased with the outcome of the mediation process.
“I want to express my sincere apology to all those who have been affected by sexual abuse in our Diocese,” Sullivan stated. “My prayers go out to all survivors of abuse and I pledge my continuing commitment to ensure that this terrible chapter in the history of the Diocese of Camden, New Jersey never happens again.”
While specific details regarding the alleged sexual abuse of the roughly 300 victims were not included in the proposed settlement, the incidents occurred from the 1950s into the 1990s, with most cases concerning the 1960s and 1970s, The Associated Press reported.
Abuse survivors who filed a claim in the bankruptcy proceeding could receive $290,000, the victims’ attorneys Jay Mascolo and Jason Amala said.
More than 40 priests and others who served within the Diocese of Camden have been accused of childhood sexual abuse, although many of the allegations were not investigated because of New Jersey’s outdated statute of limitations for abuse survivors, attorneys said in a statement.
Under the previous statute of limitations, abuse survivors only had two years to pursue legal actions against the individual or entity that caused them harm, or up until the age of 20.
However, in 2019 New Jersey expanded that window of time to within seven years from the time they became aware of their injuries or up until they turn 55.
“This battle was hard-fought and today’s settlement was long-overdue—Camden survivors have finally obtained some semblance of justice after suffering for decades,” said Jay Mascolo of RAM Law, who is among the attorneys representing the accusers, in a statement.
“This moment is a direct result of thousands of survivors courageously coming forward, and the nation-leading reforms that New Jersey passed that made it possible for survivors to finally seek justice,” Mascolo stated. “We hope this victory encourages others to seek accountability for the abuse they suffered—it’s not too late for many survivors in New Jersey to come forward under New Jersey’s new law.”