The former executive assistant to Bishop Richard Malone says the compensation program set up by the diocese for victims of clergy sex abuse “didn’t have survivors best interest at heart or in mind”.
Siobhan O’Connor, who leaked several documents that detailed clergy sex abuse from the diocese’s archives, spoke at a press conference in Los Angeles Tuesday afternoon. The announcement was made as six dioceses in California are launching a victims compensation program similar to the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program that the Diocese of Buffalo set up.
O’Connor was still Malone’s executive assistant when the program launched on March 1, 2018.
“As I learned more about it and experienced the fallout from it, I learned that really what they had been preparing for was the legal and the financial ramifications. They had not planned for the practicalities and the logistics,” O’Connor said.
Last week, the diocese announced that the program was complete, and that $17.6 million had been paid out to 107 victims of clergy abuse.
O’Connor also alleged that diocesan officials didn’t adequately respond to victims who called about the program.
“You would assume a hotline would be manned at least during business hours,” she said. “But this one rang to an empty office. The victims assistance coordinator had to call in remotely and receive those messages.”
O’Connor said some victims would have to wait two or three weeks to receive a call back.
“They’ve been through so much already and now they had to wait and they didn’t even know if they were going to be helped by this program,” O’Connor added. “They certainly weren’t respected by it.”
Advocates of victims, like Road to Recovery President Robert Hoatson, have been calling on the Diocese of Buffalo to open up another round of the IRCP program. However, in their report on the program, diocesan officials indicated that would not be happening at this time.
A spokesperson for the Diocese of Buffalo responded to O’Connor’s comments with this statement:
Prior to March 1, 2018, the Confidential Line was located at a Catholic Charities Office (in Cheektowaga) and the calls could be accessed remotely by the Victim Assistance Coordinator at any time. There were approximately 10-15 calls per week mostly from persons who were already receiving assistance from the Diocese. Persons who called received timely responses. Starting on March 1, when the Bishop announced the IRCP to coordinate financial compensation to victims, the calls increased to over 30 per day. Due to the overwhelming number of calls, by the end of March, a new plan for the Confidential Line was put into place. The line was moved to the Corporate Catholic Charities Office in Buffalo where a secretary could monitor the incoming calls, take messages and refer calls to the proper department as well as to the Victim Assistance Coordinator. Due to the high volume of calls, there were unfortunate delays in responding to callers.