Greensburg Diocese paid $4.35 million in sexual abuse claims |

Greensburg Diocese paid $4.35 million in sexual abuse claims

Deb Erdley

The Greensburg Catholic Diocese paid $4.35 million to settle claims with 57 adults who suffered child sexual abuse at the hands of clergy, church officials announced Thursday.

Greensburg was among five Pennsylvania dioceses and one archdiocese that established compensation funds for survivors of clergy child sexual abuse following last year’s release of a statewide grand jury report detailing allegations of abuse against 301 priests over seven decades.

Church leaders opted to set up funds to pay survivors whose abuse occurred outside the statute of limitations in the midst of intense lobbying efforts by victims’ advocates who sought to open the courts to old claims.

Church bodies in Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Philadelphia, Pittsburgh and Scranton hired independent consultants to administer such efforts.

While some church bodies have released figures on their compensation programs, others like the Pittsburgh Diocese, have yet to publish any figures.

The average settlement in the Greensburg Diocese — $76,315 — paled next to preliminary figures released elsewhere.

Program administrators for the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, which closed claims Sept. 30, reported paying or authorizing $19.6 million to 93 individuals as of the end of May for an average of $210,000. During that same time, the Scranton Diocese paid $2.16 million to 17 individuals for an average of $127,058.

PennLIVE reported the Harrisburg Diocese paid $12.1 million to settle 106 claims for an average of $114,000 per claim.

In Greensburg, where the grand jury documented abuse allegations against 20 priests, 63 individuals filed claims with the diocesan compensation fund. A diocesan spokesman said six claims remain unresolved.

The diocese did not disclose the range of settlements it paid.

In addition to the settlements, officials said the Greensburg Diocese spent $200,000 in legal fees and $170,000 to administer the fund.

Church officials in Greensburg said 84% of the settlement total was underwritten by the diocese’s self-insurance fund. Another 14% came from its plant fund and 2% came from investment earnings.

The fund was part of the Greensburg Diocese’s Comprehensive Reconciliation Initiative. The program included provisions for counseling, spiritual guidance and pastoral care for those affected by clergy abuse in the diocese.

Greensburg Bishop Edward C. Malesic said the initiative represented the fulfillment of a commitment he made on behalf of the diocese last year.

“I want to be sure we do everything possible to assist survivors in the healing process. Their stories, their pain and their anguish have had a tremendous impact on me,” Malesic said.

Catholic dioceses across the nation have turned to compensation funds in the wake of clergy abuse reports. Most, including the Pennsylvania church funds, required claimants to agree to forgo any future legal action in the event states open up the courts to civil claims outside the statute of limitations.

While such offers may have headed off some court filings, legal fallout from the grand jury report continues.

Pittsburgh lawyer Alan Perer, who has multiple lawsuits pending against the Greensburg and Pittsburgh dioceses, said four of his clients applied to the Greensburg compensation fund.

“The top award was their highest number, $104,500,” Perer said. He said two of his clients rejected offers and are proceeding with litigation.

As recently as last week, a woman represented by Altoona lawyer Richard Serbin filed suit against the Greensburg Diocese. She said she was repeatedly raped by a priest in her Seward parish beginning in 1972, when the diocese transferred him there after abuse allegations surfaced in his prior assignment.

Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, [email protected] or via Twitter .

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