As an adult, Paul Dunn came forward and reported that he was sexually abused as a child by a Queens, NY, priest, many years after it happened. Now 53, Dunn spent the past 40 or so years suffering: attempted suicide, addiction, cutting, depression, post-traumatic stress disorder and three failed marriages. In June, he turned down a $200,000 cash settlement for his suffering because it ‘“doesn’t even come close” to delivering justice.”’
We are inspired by his courage and selflessness.
The Diocese of Brooklyn, which covers Queens, offered Dunn the money after he provided details regarding his sexual abuse by Catholic priest Cornelius T. Otero. Dunn detailed the abuse in his submission to the Diocese through its Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program. Under the program, the Diocese evaluated claims regarding sexual abuse by its priests and offered payouts in varying amounts in some cases and no payouts in others.
All but two dioceses in New York offered compensation programs recently. Many survivors have received payouts under these programs. We admire the courage it takes for any survivor to come forward and disclose such painful secrets. Coming forward is the first step in the healing process. Survivors deserve compensation. But they deserve so much more.
The New York diocesan compensation programs simply provide money to survivors. They do not include the release of lists of the dioceses’ credibly accused clergy. They do not include the release of priest files and other documents showing abusers’ histories or how the dioceses handled these priests. In short, the payout programs do not provide full accountability or justice, and they perpetuate secrecy.
“I choose to stand on the side of survivors who want to fight,” Dunn told the New York Post. “There’s no amount of money that will make me feel better.”
Dunn is fighting for the passage of the Child Victims Act in New York that would provide a window of time to sue in cases that occurred beyond the statute of limitations. Similar measures in Minnesota and Hawaii enabled hundreds of survivors to come forward, bring lawsuits and begin the healing process. As a result of Minnesota’s Child Victim’s Act, thousands of pages of secret church documents and hundreds of names of credibly accused clergy were made public.
New York lawmakers have failed to pass such legislation so far but the issue – and survivors like Dunn – won’t go away. For example, the recent 900-page Pennsylvania grand jury report detailing hundreds of abusive clergy for the first time has sparked a national conversation about clergy abuse, statute of limitations reform and window legislation.
It is long overdue.