Diocese to conclude settlement process with independent mediator

    (WHAM file photo)

    Rochester, N.Y. - The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester says it will be concluding a settlement process with sex abuse survivors that has utilized the aid of a former state supreme court justice.

    Retired Justice Robert Lunn was hired as an independent mediator between the diocese and survivors. Lunn has been acting as both judge and jury - deciding the validity of abuse claims and how much claimants would be awarded.

    In a statement Thursday, the diocese says this practice will conclude with the passage of the Child Victims Act.

    "The Diocese now wants to assess where we are as we prepare to respond to and cooperate with the process set forth in this recent legislation," the statement read. "The program with Justice Lunn will not end immediately. Instead, all claimants who have now completed the investigation phase of the program will have their claims administered by Justice Lunn. When the process concludes, more than 30 claimants will have been heard."

    As 13WHAM reported last week, the diocese had sought to have a greater role in Judge Lunn's proceedings, asking to meet with Lunn prior to a decision in each claimant's case. Lunn told 13WHAM that was not how the program was set up.

    MORE - Exclusive: Discord in diocese's settlement program for sex abuse survivors

    A lawyer representing more than 30 local victims says this is a real loss - and the decision is a shock.

    "These are people's lives that are involved here," said attorney Leander James, "and how decisions like this get communicated are important. If one is concerned about reconciliation and healing for abuse survivors within the Catholic Church, the Church needs to be very sensitive in how they communicate decisions."

    Without the program, James says he will now prepare lawsuits against the diocese on behalf of his victims.

    The diocese says victims can still work with them privately, but many victims struggle with a lack of trust for the Church.

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