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Insights: New Compensation Program for Abuse Victims; Revised State Budget

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May 17, 2019

CA Dioceses Announce New Compensation Program for Abuse Victims

Catholic bishops in California today announced the establishment of a new compensation program that will be available to any person who has been sexually abused as a minor by diocesan priests of the participating dioceses, no matter when that abuse might have occurred.

The new Independent Compensation Program for Victim-Survivors of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Priests is independent from Church control. Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille S. Biros, nationally known mediators and private compensation program administrators, have been working with the California bishops since last November to design and administer the program.

The program will be overseen by an independent oversight board that includes former Governor Gray Davis and business leader and former Administrator of the U.S. Small Business Administration, Maria Contreras-Sweet.

Feinberg and Biros are running similar abuse compensation programs covering Catholic dioceses in New York, Pennsylvania, New Jersey and Colorado.

The California program announced today will include the Archdiocese of Los Angeles and the Dioceses of Sacramento, San Bernardino, San Diego, Orange, and Fresno. Together, these dioceses comprise more than 10 million Catholics, or about 80 percent of the state’s Catholic population.

A program website is being finalized and there will be a forthcoming announcement by Feinberg and Biros on the program launch. A draft Protocol and Frequently Asked Questions are available. They will be finalized prior to the program launch.

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UPDATE: “Seal of Confession” Amended

Senate Bill 360, the bill making its way through the legislature that had attempted to eliminate the “seal of confession,” was amended in the Senate Appropriations Committee yesterday and is on its way to the Senate Floor. The CCC is waiting to review the new language contained in the bill but is cautiously optimistic that it now protects the sanctity of the confessional.

Thank you to everyone who participated in Action Alerts and sent emails to lawmakers. While the CCC is still waiting for the release of the new language, we are confident that your letters were taken into consideration into adopting amendments over the bill’s original proposal.  

The original bill proposed to eliminate the penitential communication exemption when it comes to child sexual abuse. The rite of confession is one of the most sacrosanct of Catholic beliefs and penitents rely on this unbreakable guarantee to freely confess and seek reconciliation with God. A priest who breaks the seal is automatically excommunicated (Canon 1388).

In this piece, Archbishop José H. Gomez explained, “SB 360’s sponsor makes a sweeping claim that “the clergy-penitent privilege has been abused on a large scale, resulting in the unreported and systemic abuse of thousands of children across multiple denominations and faiths.”

“That is simply not true. Hearings on the bill have not presented a single case — in California or anywhere else ­— where this kind of crime could have been prevented if a priest had disclosed information he had heard in confession,” Archbishop Gomez said.

In an op-ed on wordonfire.com, Bishop Robert Barron explained, “Since the canon law of the Church stipulates that the conscious violation of the seal of confession results in automatic excommunication, every priest, under this new law, would be threatened with prosecution and possible imprisonment on the one hand or formal exclusion from the body of Christ on the other. And does anyone doubt that, if this law is enacted, attempts will be made to entrap priests, effectively placing them in this impossible position?”

Stay with the CCC as we review the amended language of the bill when it is released in the coming days.

 

Gov. Newsom Releases May Budget Revise

Gov. Newsom released his revised state budget last week, showing major gains for tax credits for low-income earners, homeless programs, restorative justice pilot programs, and funding for two free years of community college tuition for first-time students.

The revised budget would triple the California Earned Income Tax Credit (CalEITC) and expand eligibility to cover roughly another three million households. The CCC is working to make tax-paying low-income immigrant families with federally assigned Individual Taxpayer Identification Numbers (ITINs) eligible for the credit as well.

The budget, through SB 678 (Glazer, D - Orinda), would also fund three restorative justice pilot programs over the course of five years at a cost of $25 million. These programs would put victims first and help transform those who have committed crimes to reduce our reliance on mass incarceration.

The Governor is taking advantage of additional revenue to put his stamp on education.  He proposes significantly more funding for early childhood education and child care -- including $31.4 million to add 10,000 new preschool slots for low-income 4-year-olds in 2020. Additionally, $50 million is allocated for establishing Child Savings Accounts to prepare for college access.  To help recruit and retain qualified teachers in school districts with high rates of under‑prepared teachers, the May Revision includes $89.8 to provide loan assumptions (repayments) for newly credentialed teachers to work in high-need schools for at least four years.  Two free years of community college for first time, full time students is also accounted for in the budget.

Additionally, Newsom’s budget adds an extra $150 million in grants for communities to build programs that help the homeless, bringing the total available for those efforts to $650 million.

Bills have until today to pass their respective Appropriations Committees and head to the floor. The Senate is currently considering 350 fiscal bills while the Assembly is reviewing 750.

Stay tuned to the CCC as lawmakers will continue budget negotiations before the June 15 deadline to pass a final budget for the 2019-2020 fiscal year.

 

May 17, 2019
Vol. 12, No. 16

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