Lawrence Stengel (Photo courtesy the law firm Saxton & Stump)

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia has paid out almost $39 million to survivors of clergy sexual abuse in the past year through the Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program (IRRP) set up for the archdiocese, administrators confirmed this week.

The program began in November 2018 as a process independent of the archdiocese to offer money to people abused by clergy in the past. Program administrators assess claims and offer compensation with no monetary cap, either individually or in total.

The archdiocese has pledged to pay all awards as indicated by the plan and agreed to by the survivors.

A total of $38.9 million has been paid as of this week to 181 survivors who accepted the amount determined by the program’s administrators, according to Lawrence Stengel, a retired federal district judge who serves on the Oversight Committee of the IRRP.

To date, 614 claims have been made to the program, some 400 remain to be processed and 216 claimants have received “determination letters,” with details of the money on offer, he confirmed.

If survivors agree to the amount indicated in their letter, “they sign an agreement, then get paid,” Stengel said.

Using the average compensation of $215,055 per claim, if all 216 claimants accept their offer, the amount to be paid by the archdiocese potentially could rise to more than $85 million.

Tens of millions more could be paid by the archdiocese if many of the 400 additional survivors also were to accept offers by the IRRP, following the conclusion of the review and determination process.

The lengthy and sensitive nature of processing claims of sexual abuse is one reason why no updated information on the number of claims or monetary amounts has been made public by the IRRP since May 2019, Stengel explained.

The three-stage review process for claims, which includes the offer for a survivor to meet with the program’s administrators and a victim’s advocate, was compounded as some 400 new claims came to the program at the deadline last summer, Stengel said.

“The end of July 2019 was the deadline for filing a claim. There was a rush of claims before that. We were inundated with a couple hundred (claims) at the end of July,” Stengel said.

Administrators wanted “to wait and see what was happening” before making a report public, he added, and even a year-end report in 2019 was not possible.

For that reason, “it could be a year from now” for a new report on the program’s status, Stengel said. “There is no artificial deadline, there is no clock ticking.”

***

Persons wishing to report an allegation of sexual abuse should contact immediately their local law enforcement agency and/or the archdiocesan Office of Investigations at 1-888-930-9010. Mandated reporters are required to call ChildLine, which is staffed by the Department of Public Welfare at 1-800-932-0313.

To report a violation of The Standards of Ministerial Behavior and Boundaries, contact the archdiocesan Office of Investigations.

If you need support or assistance, victim services and referrals are available through the Victim Assistance Office of the Archdiocese of Philadelphia at 1-888-800-8780 or www.ChildYouthProtection.org.