The Diocese of Ogdensburg has doled out millions of dollars to victims of clergy sexual abuse.
The diocese released its report Tuesday on what's called the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP).
In it, the diocese says as of last week it paid a total of nearly $5.5 million to 37 victims. Two more are considering whether to accept compensation.
“It was the right thing to do - another way of expressing our sorrow and our regret over what had happened,” said Bishop Terry LaValley.
The diocese launched the IRCP in March as "part of an on-going effort to express contrition to those who suffered sexual abuse by diocesan clergy and to help them find a sense of healing."
Officials say they were surprised by the extent of abuse.
"When the IRCP was undertaken, we did not fully grasp the extent of the abuse that occurred over the last 70 years."
The diocese says it has received 72 credible claims of abuse of minors by 27 priests. Eleven were reported to be repeat offenders.
Ten claims, officials say, were settled outside the IRCP process for a total of $750,000.
“The church, through generations here in the north country, has seen some serious sinfulness and terrible misconduct by its clergy," said Bishop LaValley.;
Diocesan officials say there has been no reported abuse for 20 years, which "gives us hope that the safe environment efforts we have undertaken are effective."
The diocese says it's not using any money donated by parishioners to pay the claims, but is instead using loans and lines of credit.
The diocese is now considering possibly revealing the names of clergy accused of sexual abuse. That would go against its long-standing policy.
“I want to be fair and I want to make sure that I'm just toward all involved,” said Bishop LaValley.
All Catholic dioceses in the state are under investigation by New York's Attorney General. Ogdensburg and other dioceses have had records subpoenaed. Bishop LaValley said they are cooperating.
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