Victims of clergy sex abuse and their advocates, are warily welcoming the plans of several of Pennsylvania’s Catholic dioceses to financially compensate victims whose claims have exceeded the statute of limitations and are no longer eligible take their claims to court.
How much money the state has to give out and where exactly it is going to come from, are some of the many details of these reconciliation and reparation funds that remain unclear as of the publication of this article.
Many victims of clergy sex abuse who have long been barred from courtrooms because of civil statutes of limitations, have a new feeling of hope over the prospect of finally receiving compensation for abuse that happened decades and more ago.
While many victims and their advocates are hopeful for these potential reparations, many are skeptical of the bishops’ motives. They see them as an effort to deflate ongoing debates over opening a temporary window for older abuse victims to be able to seek reparations outside of the statute of limitations. This type of temporary window for older abuse victims has brought on numerous lawsuits on dioceses in other states.
The Archbishop of Philadelphia, Charles J. Chaput has described the church’s commitment as, “significant.” Some victims of clergy sex-abuse do not see these moves as fair because they do not think that the church should be allowed to make up its own punishment for something its clergy did wrong. The archbishop acknowledged that money cannot make up for what a victim has already lost because of their abuse but it acknowledges that “evil” has been done and the compensation may, “-assist survivors as they work to find greater peace in their lives.”
On the same day as Philadelphia’s announcement, church officials from Pittsburgh, Allentown, Harrisburg, Greensburg, and Scranton, announced that they have allocated similar funds for victims whose abuse has exceeded the statute of limitations. A spokesperson for the Diocese of Erie said that they have plans to open a compensation program there too, even though the details of this were not ready to be made available to the public at the time of this article’s publication.
It appears that the funds from Pennsylvania’s bishops are similar to funds that five New York dioceses have already paid out over the last two years to over 1,000 victims. While the amount of money that may be allocated to Pennsylvania victims has not yet been specified, the average payout from the New York dioceses was $200,000 per victim.
The same mediator who oversaw Pennsylvania State University’s efforts to settle with former assistant football coach, Jerry Sandusky’s victims, Kenneth R. Feinberg, and his business manager, Camille S. Biros, will review and oversee the Pennsylvania victims’ claims. They will independently decide how much money the victims will receive. Feinberg and Biros will be overseen by an independent committee comprised of former U.S. Senate Majority Leader George J. Mitchell, former Philadelphia district attorney Kelly Hodge, and former chief judge of the U.S. Court for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania. The dioceses will not be allowed to appeal or challenge Feinberg and Biros’ rulings on eligibility or amounts of compensation for the victims.