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NEW YORK (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Church in the New York City borough of Brooklyn has set up a compensation program for victims of sexual abuse by its clergy, the Diocese of Brooklyn said on Thursday.
The program is modeled on one set up last year by the neighboring Archdiocese of New York, which encompasses the city's boroughs of Manhattan, Staten Island and the Bronx. Both programs were created in part to give victims who were abused a long time ago, beyond statutes of limitations, a chance for compensation.
"I am well aware that no amount of money will ever heal the scars of abuse, but this program is a concrete expression of our contrition and our desire to make amends," Nicholas DiMarzio, the Bishop of Brooklyn, said in a video statement. He said he had met more than 50 victims of sexual abuse by clergy.
The Roman Catholic Church, which has more than 1.2 billion adherents, has grappled in recent years with the damage done to its role as a moral authority as more than a thousand people around the world have said they were abused by clergy, typically when they were children.
Across the United States, Catholic districts and religious orders have paid tens of millions of dollars to settle lawsuits brought by victims.
In the Brooklyn diocese, independent administrators will evaluate claims and determine compensation, the diocese said. The diocese itself will not be able to appeal or dispute the administrators' findings. Once the amount to be paid out in compensation becomes clearer, likely to be tens of millions of dollars, the diocese will secure a loan, it said.
The Brooklyn diocese says it serves some 1.5 million Catholics in Brooklyn and the neighboring borough of Queens.
The program will be administered by Kenneth Feinberg, a Washington lawyer, and Camille Biros, a manager at his firm. Both administer the New York archdiocese's program and oversaw the compensation of victims of the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks.
Feinberg and Biros have already contacted about 235 people who have made allegations of abuse against the Brooklyn diocese's clergy to inform them of the possibility of compensation, Carolyn Erstad, a diocese spokeswoman, said.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), an international support group, said it welcomed the new program. Barbara Dorris, a director at SNAP, criticized aspects of both New York programs, however, for not covering Catholic clergy in the city who belong to religious orders, such as Jesuits.
Reporting by Jonathan Allen; Editing by Daniel Wallis and Phil Berlowitz