St. Agnes Cathedral is the seat of the Diocese of...

St. Agnes Cathedral is the seat of the Diocese of Rockville Centre. Credit: Danielle Finkelstein

Nearly 300 men and women will be compensated by the Diocese of Rockville Centre for the sexual abuse they suffered at the hands of priests, in some cases decades ago.

The diocese has received 293 claims since it established a special compensation program last fall, said Camille Biros, the program's co-administrator. So far, she said, 221 victims have been offered financial settlements and the others will receive offers within a few months.

Most of the claims, Biros said, were filed by men. She would not comment on the number of priests accused of sexual abuse.

Biros also declined to disclose an estimate of the total amount for the settlements. Lawyers for the victims said the awards range from about $25,000 to $500,000 each. In return, the victims have agreed not to sue the diocese.

The diocese's Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program is winding down after nearly 11 months. The official deadline to apply for compensation was April, but Biros said the diocese would still consider claims from victims just now coming forward. 

The former head of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, said he supports the Rockville Centre victims but called on the diocese to identify the accused priests.

“The church’s approach protects no one because names of clergy who committed and concealed child sex crimes continue to be concealed,” said David Clohessy, former SNAP director and nationally known advocate for church sex abuse victims.

New York's eight dioceses are being investigated by the state attorney general's office. A similar investigation in Pennsylvania found at least 1,000 children had been sexually abused by about 300 priests over seven decades.

In a report last month, the Pennsylvania attorney general criticized Rockville Centre's bishop, John Barres, for his handling of two cases when he headed the Allentown diocese. Barres has refuted the investigation's findings about him, pointing out factual errors in the report.

Shortly after the report's release, Barres,  along with other U.S. bishops, asked the Vatican to address allegations that Pope Francis knew about accusations of sexual abuse by a former American cardinal but failed to act.

On Thursday, a U.S. delegation of bishops met with the pope in Rome to discuss the sexual abuse crisis. At the same time, Francis removed the bishop of West Virginia for alleged sexual harassment and ordered an investigation into the accusations. 

This weekend, to mark two special days on the religious calendar, Barres is asking Long Island's 1.5 million Catholics to join him in praying and fasting for survivors of clergy sexual abuse and for the church's “reform, purification and sanctification" in all areas, according to the diocese's website.

The Feast of the Exaltation of the Holy Cross is Friday; the Feast of Our Lady of Sorrows is Saturday.      

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