In one of the largest cash settlements involving the Roman Catholic Church in the United States, the Diocese of Camden has agreed to pay $87.5 million to approximately 300 survivors of clergy sexual abuse.
The settlement agreement, which was filed Tuesday with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Camden, needs to be approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Jerrold N. Poslusny Jr. That could occur this summer.
Camden Bishop Dennis J. Sullivan said in a statement: “I want to express my sincere apology to all those who have been affected by sexual abuse in our Diocese. 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.”
Jeffrey D. Prol, vice chair of the bankruptcy and restructuring department at Lowenstein Sandler LLP, which represents the official committee of survivor claimants, said in a statement: “The Survivors’ Committee is pleased to have reached a consensual resolution of its disputes with the Diocese and looks forward to facilitating an expeditious distribution to survivors of sexual abuse.”
The deal is strictly between the diocese and the survivors, leaving out insurance companies for further legal action, Prol said in an interview.
The settlement will include new child protection measures that are still being finalized, as well as a requirement that the diocese publicly disclose the history of abuse. The allegations date back to the 1950s through the 1990s. Many of the priests have since died.
As part of the settlement, all 62 parishes and other Catholic entities will receive releases from liability, the diocese said.
The diocese filed for bankruptcy protection in October 2020 after a new state law expanding the statute of limitation on claims led to dozens of lawsuits being filed.
“This day, this settlement with the Bishop of Camden is a powerful advance in accountability,” Jeff Anderson, another lawyer representing survivors, said in a statement.
“The credit goes to the survivors for standing up for themselves and the truth,” Anderson said. “It is the survivors who have demanded responsibility and created a united effort against the insurance companies for denying survivors the true measure of justice.”
The diocese serves about 486,000 Catholics in Camden, Gloucester, Cumberland, Salem, Cape May, and Atlantic Counties.
Sullivan added: “It is my fervent hope that this settlement will be remembered as a positive step in our attempts to rectify past sins. Let us all continue to pray for the survivors, while again recommitting ourselves to the protection of all youth and vulnerable people in our care, today and always.”