Archdiocese of Philadelphia sets up fund for victims of clergy sex abuse

Steve Tawa
November 08, 2018 - 3:35 pm

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PHILADELPHIA (KYW Newsradio) -- The Archdiocese of Philadelphia is setting up a victims' compensation fund to provide aid to survivors of clergy abuse. It would be administered independently of Church leadership or influence.

One purpose of the fund will be to compensate survivors who would otherwise be barred by the statute of limitations in civil court.

Any claims submitted would be handled by two lawyers who previously looked after the 9/11 Victim Compensation Fund. One of them is Camille Biros, who says in addition to compensation, the package is likely to include therapy and other services.

"It's a completely voluntary option on the part of the victim," Biros said. "It does acknowledge that this terrible abuse happened to them when they were children."

Initial funding will be provided by Archdiocese assets. In a statement, the Archdiocese says "while the number of potential claims is unknown...additional funding will need to come from borrowing and the sale of archdiocesan properties." (The Archdiocese says it will not use any money given to the Catholic Charities Appeal, Seminary Appeal, other donor-designated funds, or donations made to parishes, ministries, and schools.)

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Once a person enters the program and signs a release, they would not be eligible to sue the Archdiocese, if the Pennsylvania State Legislature ultimately creates a retroactive, two-year window for survivors timed out of filing civil lawsuits against their abusers. The State House passed the measure, but the Senate has not taken action.

Biros and her colleague, Kenneth Feinberg, also served as mediators who determined the eligibility of people who identified themselves as victims of clergy sex abuse in several Catholic dioceses in New York. Biros says, so far, they've resolved more than 1,000 claims and the fund has paid out more than $200 million.

The Pennsylvania Grand Jury report released in August, which did not include the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, said more than 1,000 children were sexually abused in Catholic dioceses across the commonwealth over a 70-year period.

Archbishop Charles Chaput committed to create what the church calls "new modes of support for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy following the Pennsylvania Grand Jury report.