ROCKVILLE CENTRE, N.Y. (AP) — New York's Diocese of Rockville Centre on Monday started an independent compensation program for victims of clergy sexual abuse.

The program is likely to involve dozens of victims and cost the diocese millions of dollars, Newsday reported.

"With this program we are making a major commitment to the ongoing healing of survivors of acts of child sexual abuse committed by clergy," said Bishop John Barres, spiritual leader of the diocese of 1.5 million Catholics.

The administrators, Kenneth R. Feinberg and Camille Biros, will determine who is eligible and how much compensation will be offered.

The program, along with those started over the past year in the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn, are "a recognition that there was wrongdoing and I think that's what a lot of the claimants ... are pleased about after all these years," Biros told Newsday.

Those who receive compensation must agree not to pursue legal action against the church in the future.

One attorney, Michael Dowd, said he has 35 clients claiming clergy sex abuse in the diocese.

More than 200 cases have been settled in the New York Archdiocese and Brooklyn Diocese out of 437 received so far, Biros said.

Rockville Centre said it will pay the compensation "by using funds from investment returns over time and insurance programs."

In the first phase, which started Monday, people who previously had reported abuse to church officials can apply for compensation. In the second phase, expected to start in January, people who had not previously reported their allegations can apply.

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Information from: Newsday, http://www.newsday.com