PITTSBURGH, PA

Diocese releases abuse-related expenses

Thursday, July 11, 2019 - Updated: 3:54 pm

Pittsburgh Catholic Staff Report

Fulfilling promises that Bishop David Zubik made in his pastoral letter, The Church Healing, the Diocese of Pittsburgh has posted on its website, www.diopitt.org, information regarding financial costs related to the diocese’s response to cases of child sexual abuse by clergy.

“The ultimate impact of child sexual abuse is ongoing suffering endured by the victims-survivors — the toll taken on their faith and their capacity to trust and to love,” Bishop Zubik said. “Catholics and the public have a right to know what the Church has done to respond, and to see that we have sought for many years to provide assistance to victims.”

The Diocese of Pittsburgh has provided approximately $7 million in direct payments to victims. Included in this are:

$4.7 million in legal settlements, since the first such settlement on record in 1991. The largest of these payments was $1.25 million distributed among 32 victims-survivors by an independent arbitrator in 2007, and was announced publicly at that time.

$2.3 million in other assistance payments offered to victims-survivors — primarily for counseling — since 2003. Amounts paid prior to 2003 are not available, but it has been diocesan policy since 1986 to assist victims-survivors with counseling.

In addition, the Diocese of Pittsburgh has incurred a total of $3.8 million in legal fees related to clergy sexual abuse. Of this amount, $3.5 million has been incurred since the diocese received the grand jury subpoena in September 2016. In a policy that dates back more than 30 years, the Diocese of Pittsburgh does not pay for the defense of individual clergy against criminal charges.

Regarding clergy who have been removed from ministry due to substantiated allegations of child sexual abuse, but who cannot be dismissed from the clerical state due to age, illness or canonical restriction as determined by the Holy See, the worldwide law of the Church — canon law — requires the diocese to provide for their basic needs. They receive less than half of the salary of a priest in good standing, as well as health care benefits.

In the Diocese of Pittsburgh, the total aggregate annual cost of these sustenance payments has averaged $315,000. Of that amount, approximately 60 percent relates to health care benefits. These sustenance payments total less than half the salary of a priest in good standing.

The worldwide law of the Church — canon law — requires the diocese to supply basic needs for priests who have been removed from ministry due to substantiated allegations of abuse, but who cannot be dismissed from the clerical state (involuntarily laicized) due to age, illness or canonical restriction as determined by the Holy See.

All of the financial payments and legal fees related to sexual abuse were funded through the Diocese of Pittsburgh Insurance Program. None of the money for these payments has come from Our Campaign for the Church Alive!, Catholic Charities, or from any other funds designated by the donor for a specific use.

The Diocese of Pittsburgh Insurance Program is a self-insurance program that covers health, property and casualty claims. The vast majority of the program covers health care for diocesan, parish and school employees and property-related claims for parishes, schools and other diocesan institutions. Only about 2.5 percent has been used for sexual abuse claims.

In late 2018, the diocese announced the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP). Information about the program is available at www.PittsburghDioceseIRCP.com. The aggregate amount of payments to victims/survivors will be published by January 1, 2020, following the completion of the program. Recipients will not be identified.

No funds for the IRCP will come from Our Campaign for the Church Alive!, Catholic Charities or any other funds designated for a specific use by the donor. Nor have such funds been used in the past to compensate victims.


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