Editorial: Payouts show volume of victims
The Greensburg Catholic Diocese announced Thursday the amount of money paid out of a compensation fund for victims of clergy child sexual abuse.
The local totals came to $4.35 million distributed among 57 adults. That breaks down to an average of $76,315.
That’s a significant amount of money. It’s more than the U.S. Census Bureau pegs the Westmoreland County median household income of $56,702. It’s enough to buy a starter home or put a down payment on something bigger.
But does it heal wounds? Does it buy trust? Does it fix what has been broken?
That’s hard for anyone other than the victims to say, and there are a lot of them out there. The statewide grand jury report released in August 2018 detailed 70 years of abuse by 301 priests.
Greensburg has followed the same track as Pittsburgh, Harrisburg, Erie, Scranton, Allentown and Philadelphia with compensation funds administered by consultants to address the cases that fell outside the statute of limitations — the legal line in the sand that says beyond this point, a suit can’t be filed.
So on the one hand, the dioceses did something they didn’t have to do. They stepped up and addressed a problem that could have been dismissed with a shrug.
But we can’t lose sight of the fact that the statute of limitations passed in many cases because of the actions of the church. The grand jury report shows years and years of “secret archives” where reports of predator priests went to languish and die in the dark.
When all of the dioceses’ numbers are tallied and all of the victims added up and all of the money is counted, it is likely to stagger the imagination. The averages for claims in other dioceses range from $114,000 in Harrisburg to $210,000 in Philadelphia. Pittsburgh’s numbers haven’t been released yet.
It can almost make the Greensburg numbers seem like a drop in the bucket. And that’s because they are.
The horror isn’t in the price tag. It is in the volume of victims.
The grand jury report showed how many predators had been documented. The compensation fund numbers show the walking wounded.
The scope of the grand jury report can make the issue seem more distant. Seventy years of abuse? That sounds like history.
But checks in the hands of people who are still alive and dealing with the consequences of abuse shows it as current events.