Judge: Trust fund can’t be used to pay victims of clergy abuse in Pittsburgh diocese | TribLIVE.com
Allegheny

Judge: Trust fund can’t be used to pay victims of clergy abuse in Pittsburgh diocese

Tom Davidson
1962415_web1_ptr-DOP08-022719

The Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh can’t use an $8 million trust fund intended to help needy boys to pay victims of clergy sexual abuse, an Allegheny County judge has ordered.

Judge Lawrence O’Toole issued a three-paragraph order last week dismissing the diocesan request to use the 120-year-old Toner Trust that’s valued at more than $8 million to pay claims filed with the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program on the diocese.

“At this point, we are reviewing our options,” diocesan spokeswoman Ellen Mady said.

The attempt to use the trust fund to settle abuse claims was opposed by Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro in Allegheny County Orphans’ Court.

“The Pittsburgh Diocese unlawfully attempted to use the Toner Trust to avoid transparency and accountability. Clergy abuse victims deserve better. That’s why we went to court to stop the diocese and successfully block this unlawful misuse of charitable funds,” Shapiro said in a statement.

The trust was left to the diocese by Westmoreland County farmer and politician James L. Toner of Derry Township.

Toner served three terms in the state House in the 1870s, representing Westmoreland County. He died Jan. 6, 1899.

He left his farm and other property to the church to establish an industrial school for boys. The bequest predates the founding of the Greensburg Diocese by 50 years and was initially made to the Benedictine Society of the Catholic Church of America. The Benedictine Society denied the funds, and they were accepted by the Pittsburgh Diocese.

The trust was used to establish the Toner Institute, which helped boys in the area until it ceased operation in 1977.

Since then, the trust has funded other diocesan initiatives that help youth including Auberle, a nonprofit based in McKeesport; McGuire Memorial, a center for disabled youth in Beaver County; Holy Family Institute in Emsworth and other organizations.

Diocesan attorneys asked the court in April if the trust could be used for the fund that is paying settlements for clergy abuse.

Tom Davidson is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Tom at 724-226-4715, [email protected] or via Twitter .

TribLIVE commenting policy

You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.

We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.

While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.

We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers

We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.

We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.

We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.

We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.