The same day that the Diocese of Rockville Centre unveiled its compensation program on Monday for victims of clergy sexual abuse, Boston attorney Mitchell Garabedian stood outside the diocese’s headquarters on North Park Avenue with one of his clients, asserting that the church, through the program, is “trying to put a positive spin on an evil situation.”
The man he is representing, Thomas McGarvey, was 16 when he alleges that a priest began sexually abusing him at St. Catherine of Sienna Church in Franklin Square. The abuse spanned from 1981 to 1989, he said, and that priest has since died.
McGarvey, who now lives in Queens, said he would often stay over in the rectory with the priest, who abused him, adding that the priest also made sexual advances on his brother. “I was ashamed of it,” McGarvey said. “I was trying to hide it.”
Now, he said, he is considering participating in the diocese’s new Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program — designed to grant financial settlements to victims — to put the past behind him and move on with his life.
Phase One of the program, modeled after those created in the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn over the past year to help victims of abuse by priests and deacons gain some form of closure, began Monday, and will handle claims already made to the diocese. The program is funded through investment returns over time and insurance programs.
Any person wishing to file a new claim alleging sexual abuse not previously reported to the diocese may be eligible to participate in Phase Two of the program, which the diocese anticipates to launch in January. All claims will be investigated before the program’s administrators, which include an independent oversight committee, make a decision on a potential settlement.
“We as a Church recognize that no amount of monetary compensation could ever erase or undo the grave harm suffered by survivors of child abuse,” Bishop John Barres, leader of the diocese’s 1.5 million Catholics, said in a statement. “Still, we embrace Christ’s healing power and the Mission of Mercy of the Catholic Church as we begin our Independent Reconciliation and Compensation program. We stand in solidarity with our survivors and their families, and we continue our commitment and vigilance to the protection of children in our Church and in society.”
Applicants who go through the program in search of healing and closure have a choice whether or not to accept the amount offered, said Garabedian, who was portrayed in the Oscar-winning film “Spotlight,” about the Boston Globe’s publishing of a series of stories detailing the abuse allegations against priests in Boston.
He has represented hundreds of victims of clergy sexual abuse over the last few decades, and said that victims in the diocese have informed him of six priests who allegedly abused them, including a past priest at both St. Agnes in Rockville Centre and St. Barnabas in Bellmore. Abuse from these six recent claims spans from 1971 to 1992, he added, when the now middle-aged victims were between the ages of 8 and 24.
McGarvey claimed that, in his case, other members of the church knew that the abuse was happening, but did not stop it. He added that the trauma from the abuse has hurt him personally and professionally, spurring a lack of concentration and outbursts of anger.
“I always thought it was my Irish temper, but no,” he said. “It’s what happened to me. It’s like anybody that suffered from a war, like a veteran. It’s the same thing. It’s post-traumatic syndrome.”
Currently, a state statute of limitations — requiring victims of child sex abuse to file charges against their alleged perpetrators before they turn 23 — bars many from seeking legal action, and McCarvey said he expects many more to seek financial compensation through the diocese’s program, despite it lacking transparency in outing the accused priests.
“It’s all about validation,” Garabedian said. “There isn’t one client that I’ve ever represented who wouldn’t give all the money back they’ve ever received in exchange for not having been abused.”
Meanwhile, the Catholic Church, who Barres said in an interview with EFL News has made great progress in child protection, looks to move on. “As your Shepherd, I am asking all of us together to take a new and important step in the Church’s Eucharistic Mission of Mercy,” he said in a statement. “With this program we are making a major commitment to the ongoing healing of survivors of acts of child sexual abuse committed by clergy.”