Several Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses have established a fund to pay out settlements to victims of sexual abuse at the hands of clergy members. Known as the Independent Reconciliation and Reparations program, the fund may help provide a layer of closure to survivors who claim to have been sexually abused by the Church during childhood.
The issue of Catholic clergy sexual abuse has ravaged the Church for decades and Pennsylvania has been hit particularly hard. The Pennsylvania compensation program is run by the same group that runs the New York program and is monitored by three people who are paid by the archdiocese. Since its inception, the New York program has paid $40 million to 189 victims and it is still in its first phase.
Pennsylvania’s clergy members found themselves under a new microscope with the publication of a grand jury investigation into sex abuse by the Commonwealth’s priests that was made public in August. Since the report was made public, dioceses in Pittsburgh, Allentown, Harrisburg, Greensburg, and Scranton moved to establish reparation funds of their own. The Philadelphia Archdiocese sent information about the fund to nearly 350 known victims of Catholic sex abuse in the city alone.
Statistics regarding the number of those who have been abused who then go on to file claims are, for obvious reasons, hard to come by. Also unknown in this situation is exactly how much money the Church is putting up for compensation. The Church has emphasized that none of the money comes from its charitable wings and is instead raised by selling property and taking out loans. Some, however, view the establishment of the funds as a defensive move put forth by the Church as a way of fending off formal lawsuits. Claims against a fund are largely private matters and a settlement by such means would almost certainly include the waiver of any right to future legal action.
Survivors in the Philadelphia region have until September 30th of next year to file their claims and can do so by visiting www.philadelphiaarchdioceseirrp.com.