I-Team: Abuse Survivor Slams Cardinal Dolan’s Victim Compensation Plan - NBC New York
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I-Team: Abuse Survivor Slams Cardinal Dolan’s Victim Compensation Plan

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    NEWSLETTERS

    When Cardinal Timothy Dolan unveiled a plan to pay settlements to victims of priest sexual abuse, he touted the new victim compensation fund as a way to seek reconciliation with those who have been harmed by the church. Chris Glorioso reports. (Published Thursday, Nov. 10, 2016)

    When Cardinal Timothy Dolan unveiled a plan to pay settlements to victims of priest sexual abuse, he touted the new victim compensation fund as a way to seek reconciliation with those who have been harmed by the church.

    For at least one survivor of priest sexual abuse, the settlement fund has had the opposite effect.

    "I felt victimized once again, extremely angry," said Lex Filipowski, a former altar boy at Holy Cross Church in South Centerville, New York.

    In his first interview using his real name, Filipowski says he called the New York Archdiocese to inquire about the victim compensation fund, only to learn he was ineligible because his abuser was a priest of a religious order – the Carmelites.

    The compensation program pays only victims of diocesan priests.

    "How can that be?" Filipowski said. "They’re all Catholic priests. The Church that I went to was and is part of the Archdiocese of New York."

    According to the website explaining protocol for the New York Archdiocese Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, "the individual claim of clergy sexual abuse may not be directed against a member of a religious order or priests of another diocese." 

    According to Joe Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, it makes sense to restrict payouts to victims of diocesan priests because Carmelites, Jesuits, Franciscans, Dominicans and priests of other religious orders do not answer directly to the Cardinal.

    "Just as other dioceses in the U.S. have put policies and protocols in place to deal with the issue of sexual abuse among minors, so have the religious orders," Zwilling said. "The religious orders have taken responsibility for the misbehavior of their members."

    Ken Feinberg, an attorney selected by the New York Archdiocese to negotiate victims' settlements, said abuse survivors should seek compensation from a religious order if their abusing priest was a member of that order.

    "Assuming that priest engaged in misconduct as part of a Carmelite order, the Carmelite order has the responsibility of dealing with that claim," Feinberg said. "This is the simplest, cleanest, most efficient way."

    But critics say priests of religious orders, like Fr. Boxelaar, would not be able to preach in diocesan churches without approval of the bishops.

    According to Filipowski, Boxelaar molested and kissed him over the course of four years in the early 1970s. Most of the abuse happened on Sunday mornings while the young altar boy helped the Carmelite priest put on his vestments inside Holy Cross Church -- a building owned by the New York Archdiocese.

    Fr. Michael Kissane, Prior Provincial of the Carmelites in Middletown, NY, said there were multiple credible accusations of abuse against Fr. Boxelaar that came forward in the early 1980s.

    "At that time Boxelaar was removed from ministry," Kissane said.

    Boxelaar reportedly moved back to his native Holland and died there in the early 1990s.

    Last year, when Filipowski came forward with his story of abuse, Kissane agreed the Carmelites would pay for some of his therapy, but he said the money for a more substantial settlement wasn’t there.

    "I did have a conversation with him. He did ask about some compensation for pain and suffering," said Kissane. “[But] I can’t make a decision as Provincial, to pay someone money. We don’t have that kind of money. The Archdiocese does, but we don’t.”

    New York’s statute of limitations on child sexual abuse claims runs out when a victim reaches the age of 24.

    Sen. Brad Hoylman (D-Chelsea) is the sponsor of a bill that would extend the statute of limitations and provide a one-year period during which child sex abuse victims of any age can pursue civil claims against their alleged abusers.

    "The Catholic Church has spent millions of dollars to lobby against this legislation for the last decade or more in Albany. It’s really inexplicable to me," Hoylman said. 

    When asked why Cardinal Dolan opposes extending the child sex abuse statute of limitations, Zwilling referred the I-Team to a statement of opposition released by the New York State Catholic Conference, which represents Catholic Bishops across the state. 

    “[The] legislation is seriously flawed in that it contains a statute of limitations ‘window’ to open up previously time-barred civil claims going back indefinitely,” reads the statement. 

    "God has no statute of limitations," Filipowski countered. "There is no statute of limitations for doing the right thing."

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