Compensation fund for victims goes live

Friday, January 25, 2019 - Updated: 11:27 am

By Ann Rodgers General Manager

The Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program for the Diocese of Pittsburgh is open for registration and claims by victim-survivors who were minors when they suffered sexual abuse by clergy of the Diocese of Pittsburgh.

The diocese is reaching out to victim-survivors who had previously reported that they suffered abuse by one of its priests or deacons, and is inviting them to participate in the program. People who have not previously reported such abuse to the diocese have until July 31, 2019, to register a claim with the independent program administrators if they wish to be considered for this program. Registration information and links are at www.PittsburghDioceseIRCP.com.

While the program will provide financial awards to victim-survivors, Bishop David Zubik emphasized that it is “more about the survivors than about the payment of money. It is about recognizing the harm done by past abuse and continuing our pledge of taking every appropriate action to prevent the occurrence of future abuse.”

The bishop spoke of the importance of resolving claims quickly, which is why the diocese turned to nationally-renowned mediators Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros. They have specialized in complex cases, including compensation funds for victims of the 9/11 terror attacks and the BP oil spill.

No money for this program will come from Our Campaign for The Church Alive!, Catholic Charities, parishes, schools or any other funds designated by the donor for a specific purpose. Nor have such funds been used in the past to compensate victims. The bishop has previously said that he is considering the sale of properties belonging to diocesan central administration, such as its downtown offices.

The Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program began taking registrations on Tuesday, Jan. 22. Participation is voluntary, and is open to those who were abused as minors by a priest or deacon of the diocese, if they have not made a previous financial settlement with the diocese.

Those seeking compensation for abuse by a member of a religious order, or by a priest belonging to a diocese other than Pittsburgh, should contact the appropriate religious order or diocese. Claims involving religious-order personnel, clergy of other dioceses or lay employees in the Diocese of Pittsburgh will not be included in the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program for Pittsburgh.

Those who have not previously brought their allegation to the diocese must agree for the allegation to be forwarded to the appropriate district attorney, and also for the diocese to review it. Feinberg and Biros, however, have sole authority over eligibility to receive compensation. The diocese cannot reject their final decisions concerning who should receive compensation or the amount of that compensation.

“The program is designed to help survivors come forward in an atmosphere where their interests are secure and respected, without the uncertainty, conflict and stress of litigation,” Bishop Zubik said.

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