Tracey to represent Archdiocese on abuse funds panel

Professor to help oversee distribution of $3 million in funds set aside for abuse victims | December 1, 2003

Ann Marie Tracey, assistant professor of business law and ethics who recently retired from the Hamilton County Common Pleas Court, will represent the Cincinnati Archdiocese on a three-member panel that will distribute funds to victims of abuse by Catholic priests.

Cincinnati Archbishop Daniel Pilarczyk appointed Tracey last week to the panel that will be responsible for a $3 million fund set up as part of the church’s no contest plea with Hamilton County Prosecutor Mike Allen. The settlement ended the county’s criminal case against the Archdiocese on allegations related to sexual abuse of children by priests.

“This is a healing and reconciling process that the Archdiocese is undertaking at a difficult time,” she said, “and I am eager to be a part of that.”

Tracey, a lifelong Catholic, said she believes she was chosen for the panel because of her judicial experience evaluating input from people and making decisions. There may be claims that can’t be substantiated, she said.

For many, though, the fund is the only resolution, because their abuse happened so many years ago.

“My understanding is for the bulk of the victims, it’s too late to file [in court] because of the statute of limitations,” Tracey said. “It goes beyond a legal solution. It’s really more of a moral solution.”

People with claims against the Archdiocese may choose to apply to the fund for compensation or try their case in court. Those who apply to the fund may not also file suit against the church.

Tracey will be joined on the panel by a second member to be appointed by the prosecutor’s office. The two of them will select a third member, who will chair the panel. The panel must first determine a process for validating claims, she said.

While some have criticized the fund as a way to underpay victims, Tracey sees it as one part of a whole solution.

“I see this as a piece of the reconciliation process that’s happening now. I don’t think it’s the solution but a piece of the solution that’s moving toward healing and closure for both sides—and the community. It was heartbreaking to see the picture of [Pilarczyk] with the court above the church. You don’t have to be a victim or a priest or even a Catholic to be affected by what’s happened.”

The panel will consider claims during a six-month period that begins early next year. Money for the fund will come largely from sales of property the Archdiocese no longer needs, church officials said, not from parish collections or any fund drive.

Tracey was an assistant city solicitor/prosecutor and an assistant U.S. attorney before joining the bench in 1989. She left to take her current position at Xavier on Sept. 1.

For more on Tracey, read the Extra Credit in the Winter 2004 issue of Xavier magazine.