A statewide compensation program has been announced to benefit those sexually abused by Roman Catholic clergy as minors.

But it'll only be around until the end of this year.

All five Roman Catholic Dioceses in New Jersey — Camden, Metuchen, Newark, Paterson and Trenton — have approved the creation of the Independent Victim Compensation Program, which will pay victims of church sexual abuse.

All compensation will come from church funds; no public money will be used.

The program gives first priority to claimants who have previously complained to church officials about sexual abuse. The second phase of the program will permit new claimants to register for consideration by two independent administrators.

"A key element of this program is that it is purely voluntary," Camille Biros, co-administrator of the program, said during a Monday morning teleconference with reporters. "Once we resolve and determine a claim, individuals have the opportunity to review the determination and make a decision whether or not they want to participate and accept compensation."

A victim who accepts the compensation will be required to sign a release that frees the particular diocese from any further litigation in that matter.

There's no cap on the amount that can be awarded to claimants, Biros said. The largest amount awarded in a similar program in New York was $500,000.

To determine who is eligible to receive compensation, and how much each victim should be paid, Biros said, the administrators will look at a number of factors, including the age of the child at the time of abuse, the frequency of the abuse, whether alcohol and/or drugs were involved, and how the abuse has affected the victim's life.

The dioceses have no say in one's eligibility or compensation amount, Biros said. But it's up to a diocese to come up with the compensation funding.

"Generally they're funded by existing resources, loans, maybe sale of property. That's our understanding from what we've done in the state of New York," Biros said.

The proposed terms and conditions of the program will be made available at NJdiocesesIVCP.com beginning Mar. 1, when a 30-day comment period will commence for the public and interested parties. At the conclusion of the comment period, the administrators will create a final product.

The program will conclude on Dec. 31. All claims must be submitted by then.

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