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