Pittsburgh Diocese opens compensation fund for sexual abuse survivors
Five months after a scathing grand jury report detailed rampant allegations of clergy sexual abuse in Catholics diocese across Pennsylvania, the Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese has begun accepting compensation claims from clergy sexual abuse survivors.
Church officials said they began reaching out this week to inform survivors who notified the church that they had suffered abuse at the hands of diocesan clergy that they may be eligible to participate in the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program. The church also published details about the program and set up procedures for online claims at www.PittsburghDioceseIRCP.com.
“We announced this earlier. Now survivors can come forward to begin the process,” said the Rev. Nicholas Vaskov, diocesan spokesman.
The diocese is among seven statewide that announced they would underwrite compensation programs for abuse survivors in the wake of a statewide grand jury report released in August that detailed decades of rampant clergy sexual abuse of minors in Catholic dioceses across the state. Most of the incidents detailed in the report dated back decades and fell outside of the statute of limitations for court action.
Pittsburgh Bishop David Zubik said Pittsburgh’s program is “designed to help survivors come forward in an atmosphere where their interests are secure and respected, without the uncertainty, conflict and stress of litigation.”
Survivors who claimed abuse by lay teachers or members of religious orders will not receive compensation from the Pittsburgh fund. It is limited to individuals abused by priests or deacons.
The Philadelphia Archdiocese launched its fund late last year. The Greensburg Diocese is expected to open its fund in the coming weeks.
Zubik said the fund will not tap church funds designated for specific use by donors, parish funds or the Church Alive! funds.
Church officials announced their plans to establish compensation funds after legislation that would have lifted the statute of limitations for old claims stalled in the state Senate last fall.
That did not stop an onslaught of new lawsuits.
Court records in Allegheny County list 25 lawsuits against the diocese since August.
The grand jury report that detailed allegations against 99 priests and members of religious orders also sparked reports of abuse against seven living priests in the Pittsburgh Diocese that were reported to the Allegheny County District Attorney’s Office.
Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 724-850-1209, firstname.lastname@example.org or via Twitter @deberdley_trib.
Deb Erdley is a Tribune-Review staff writer. You can contact Deb at 412-320-7996, email@example.com or via Twitter .