State House Sound Bites

Capitol reporter Katie Meyer covers Pennsylvania politics and issues at the Pennsylvania state capitol.

The State House Sound Bites Podcast is now called State of the State and is a part of PA Post, a digital-first, citizen-focused news organization to hold Pennsylvania’s government accountable to its citizens.

Harrisburg joins other dioceses in opening fund to compensate sex abuse victims

Written by Katie Meyer, Capitol Bureau Chief | Feb 12, 2019 3:49 PM

Dioceses across Pennsylvania have launched victim compensation funds--pools of money churches use to pay victims of sexual assault at the hands of priests. The Roman Catholic Church supports these funds over retroactive lawsuits, arguing the latter may be unconstitutional and would bankrupt churches. (Photo by AP)

(Harrisburg) -- Harrisburg's Roman Catholic Diocese is rolling out a compensation fund for people who were sexually abused by clergy as children, but don't want to press charges or have had the statute of limitations on their case expire.

Most of the commonwealth's other dioceses have already made the same move.

A spokeswoman for Harrisburg said the diocese "took the extra time to ensure we had all the pieces of the program in place, in order to make the processes as smooth as possible for survivors."

Any assault survivor who has already identified themselves to the Harrisburg diocese will be able to file claims through May 13.

The fund is getting its money through a loan from the Priest's Retirement Fund and other assets, and possibly via insurance--though the diocese didn't say how much would be available.

Compensation funds can be controversial.

After a grand jury report on sexual abuse in six of Pennsylvania's eight dioceses, lawmakers and abuse survivors tried to open a window for statute-limited victims to sue retroactively.

The Catholic Church opposes the measure, saying it could bankrupt churches.

Instead, it's promoting the compensation funds--a way for people abused as children to get financial compensation, even if it is administered by the church where the abuse happened.

Most of the officials and advocates wary of the funds say they don't oppose them entirely; they just think lawsuits should be an option too.

Seven of the commonwealth's eight Roman Catholic dioceses now have funds in place.

The Altoona-Johnstown dioceses has said it is already doing other work on victims' behalf.

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