Deadline looms for victims of clergy sex abuse to file for compensation settlements
FILE PHOTO: Cindy Leech, left, of Johnstown, Pa., cries during a rally Wednesday Oct. 24, 2018, at the Capitol in Harrisburg. (AP Photo/Jacqueline Larma)
(Harrisburg) — Survivors of clergy sex abuse have just few days to file claims with the Diocese of Harrisburg’s victims compensation fund.
The deadline to file is Monday, May 13.
Diocese spokesman Mike Barley said the number of individuals who have filed for settlements will not be available until the fund administrator, Commonwealth Mediation & Conciliation, Inc., releases the information. That could be some time next week.
Barley said fund administrators have indicated that “they’ve had interest and feel comfortable about where program is.”
The diocese in February rolled out the so-called Survivor Compensation Program, which is poised to pay out millions of dollars to victims of clergy sex abuse. The diocese has not disclosed a specific dollar amount for the fund, or details on the size of individual amounts that will go to victims.
Private settlements to individual victims will be determined by the fund administrator. Settlement offers will be made on or before June 28.
The Diocese of Harrisburg is of six dioceses across the state, as well as the Philadelphia Archdiocese, to have established compensation funds for victims amid escalating clergy sex abuse crisis. The dioceses rolled out the programs in the wake of a scathing grand jury report released in August 2018 detailing the horrific and widespread sexual abuse of thousands of minors over seven decades by hundreds of priests in six Catholic dioceses, including Harrisburg. Nearly identical patterns of abuse were previously found several years ago in the Archdiocese of Philadelphia by a local grand jury investigation.
Carolyn Fortney, a survivor of sexual abuse at the hands of her family’s Roman Catholic parish priest as a child, awaits legislation in the Pennsylvania Capitol to respond to a landmark state grand jury report on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018 in Harrisburg, Pa. (AP Photo/Marc Levy)
In March, after holding public forums with parishioners, Harrisburg Bishop Ronald Gainer eased some of the guidelines for participation in the program, including extending eligibility to survivors of abuse who had not previously come forward to the diocese.
Barley explained the importance of the compensation fund being administered by an outside party.
“We don’t want there to be the appearance that we were trying to influence any of the process,” he said. “For many survivors the experience they have had with the church has not been a good one. We wanted to make sure they felt comfortable and know that the process was being handled by an independent administrator.”
Barley noted that victims still had time to submit claims in the program.
Information on the Survivor Compensation Program is available at:
Eligibility for the program include:
- Persons alleging childhood sexual abuse. “Childhood sexual abuse” means sexual molestation or sexual exploitation of a child (a person under the age of 18) and other behavior by which an adult uses a child as an object of sexual gratification, including attempted behavior.
- The allegation is against a priest, deacon, or seminarian of the diocese; or the allegation is against a priest or deacon from another diocese who had faculties in the diocese at the time of the abuse; or the allegation is against a priest or brother from a religious order who had faculties in the diocese at the time of the abuse.
Claimants not eligible include:
- Persons who have previously settled the claim with the diocese.
- The childhood sexual abuse has no connection to the Diocese of Harrisburg.
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