What is the Child Victims Act (CVA)?
In February 2019, the Child Victims Act (CVA) was signed into law in New York State. Among other things, the CVA opened a one-year window of opportunity (from August 14, 2019 through August 13, 2020) for victims of childhood sexual abuse to bring lawsuits that were previously time barred. As a result of the coronavirus pandemic, that deadline was extended to August 13, 2021.
How many lawsuits have been filed as part of the CVA?
Since the CVA ‘s window opened in August 2019, 80 lawsuits have been filed against the Diocese of Ogdensburg, all of which involve claims of abuse that occurred decades ago, prior to the institution of our current Safe Environment Policies and Procedures. We anticipate that more lawsuits may be filed, and we are unable at this time to determine the total number of claims that will be made while the CVA window is open.
How is the Diocese responding to these cases?
As part of its ministry, the Church desires to respond to the claims of victims in a way that acknowledges what they suffered and helps them find some sense of peace. We have hired professionals to help evaluate the claims filed by the victims so we might respond responsibly to the claims. Our task is complicated by the fact that incidents underlying the claims occurred decades ago. Witnesses are unavailable, memories have faded, documents are hard to locate, and many of the accused are deceased. We continue to take this part of our mission seriously.
How has the Diocese responded to abuse victims?
Our Diocese has worked in a serious and determined manner for decades to ensure that our parishes, schools and every entity connected to our Diocese are safe and holy environments for all. Over the past several years, we have instituted policies and procedures to prevent sexual abuse from happening. The procedures ensure that allegations are responsibly and justly handled when they are received. Bishop LaValley is available to meet with every abuse victim, and we continue to reach out to victims with a goal of fostering reconciliation and healing for those who have been so terribly hurt.
Prior to the recent passage of the CVA, our Diocese offered assistance to victims of abuse when claims were reported. In 2018, as part of the Year of Mercy, we reached out to victims of abuse through the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) seeking reconciliation with victims and compensation for them for what they suffered. We were able to resolve 38 claims through this program. Additionally, our diocesan attorney was able to resolve 14 claims outside the IRCP.
What is the Diocese doing to keep children and young people safe from abuse?
Our diocesan Safe Environment Program requires criminal background checks and safe environment training for all employees and volunteers working with children. We require safe environment education for children to help them recognize and avoid potential abusers and inform them of how to report abuse. These measures have been effective. All claims received by the Diocese relate to incidents that date back at least two decades. We have not had a report of contemporaneous sexual abuse of a minor occurring after 1999.
How do I report a case of sexual abuse?
If you have a complaint of suspected misconduct involving diocesan clergy, religious, employees or volunteers, contact Victims Assistance Coordinator, Terrianne Yanulavich, LMHC, PhD. Lic, 000186, NPI: 1356531149, 5050 Route 374 Merrill, NY 12955; email: firstname.lastname@example.org Phone: Day time is 518-651-2267, evenings: 518-569-0612 or Father Christopher Carrara, the Episcopal Vicar of Personnel at 315-393-2920 , ext. 1340.
How will the Diocese fund any settlements/judgments related to the Child Victims Act?
The Church in the North Country continues to focus on discipleship while addressing these lawsuits. We simply cannot stop doing the work we are called to do as Church. With the help of professionals, we are evaluating our diocesan assets to determine how we can maintain our mission while addressing the needs and claims of victims. We are determining what insurance coverage might be available to help us address the claims of victims. Our staff and professional advisors are committed to responding to victims and to CVA lawsuits, while maintaining our mission to preach the Gospel and reach to all in need.
Will the Diocese file for bankruptcy?
Working with our team of professional advisors, we continue to evaluate all available options to address the lawsuits and continue the Mission of the Diocese. Chapter 11 reorganization has proven to be a positive way for other Catholic dioceses to address victim claims in the most fair and equitable manner possible, while maintaining vital ministries. For this reason, it is one of the options being considered by our Diocese. No decision has yet been made.
Will parishes be responsible for any costs associated with the Child Victims Act cases?
Parishes are incorporated as separate entities. It is our sincere hope and prayer that the process to resolve claims will have minimal effect on the celebration of Sacraments and regular parish life. However, some parishes have been directly sued under the CVA and that does create the potential for some parish liability. While we hope to keep parish involvement to a minimum, it is possible that parishes may be asked to contribute to the funds available to deal with victims’ claims.
Will funds I donated to the It’s Our Church, It’s Our Future Capital Campaign be used for expenses related to the Child Victims Act cases?
Funds donated to the capital campaign were designated for specific parish and diocesan projects meant to renovate our Church facilities and programs, and it is our intention to use those funds for their intended purpose.
Will funds I donated to the Bishop’s Fund Appeal be used for expenses related to Child Victims Act cases?
Bishop’s Fund Appeal funds essential ministries in our diocese, including education of seminarians, Camp Guggenheim, the Good Samaritan Fund, the training of lay ministers and deacons and other ministries. These important ministries could not continue without the ongoing support of the Church of the North Country. It is our intent to use the Bishop’s Fund donations for the essential ministries of the diocese. Responding to victims’ claims is also an important ministry our Church must continue to undertake. Working with our team of professionals, we continue to evaluate how victims’ claims will be paid and how we can continue our whole mission.