Diocese of Erie announces details on Survivors Reparation Fund

The Diocese of Erie has announced details regarding a Survivors Reparation Fund established to compensate victims of sexual abuse in the Catholic church.

A Friday statement from the Diocese indicates that the fund will launch next February and “is to offer time-barred survivors of sexual abuse a straightforward, non-contentious pathway to obtain monetary compensation for the harm that sexual predators within the Diocese of Erie inflicted.”

“It’s my sincere hope that the establishment of the Diocese of Erie’s Survivors’ Reparation Fund will provide some measure of justice, closure, and validation for the terrible acts that victims endured,” Bishop Lawrence T. Persico said. “Although money will never fully heal the deep wounds felt by survivors, this fund is a crucial step in the diocese’s ongoing reconciliation and reform efforts… It is important to me that victims can access the fund in a timely and efficient manner.”

A mediation expert has been hired to administer the fund distinct from church leadership, the statement notes, indicating that victims of clergy and lay abuse – minors and adults – are eligible.

The Diocese outlined benefits to the fund as opposed to litigation including the “uncertainty surrounding” amendment to the state of limitations in Pennsylvania, the fund guarantees a “more equitable” distribution of funds, the provision of third-party legal counsel at no cost to victims as well as “a mechanism for victims to receive the historical data regarding their reports, their abusers and the diocese’s failings in promptly reporting and suspending abusers….”

“Given the uncertainty of any future legislation, the Diocese of Erie is taking swift action to offer an alternative path toward restitution for the survivors,” Persico continued. “Our fund is voluntary and seeks to provide victims with truth, transparency, expediency and personal privacy if they so choose.”

Victims qualify if the abuse occurred while the perpetrator was affiliated with the diocese, a victim “credibly alleges a minimum of either physical contact or in-person exposure to genitalia” and the claim has not previously been settled in court.

The Diocese will contact known victims – and accept additional allegations – and all claimants will be asked to complete a claim form. The claims period will be open for six months. Victims will then have the option to meet face-to-face with the arbitrator who will “consider a variety of factors in determining the appropriate level of compensation” including the duration of abuse, the severity, the age at victimization, when the abuse was reported and “whether the diocese failed to act on prior knowledge of the accused’s tendencies,” among other criteria.

The Diocese states that once a claim is filed and deemed eligible payment will be made within 90 days.

The funding will come “through a new line of credit obtained by the Diocese of Erie and secured by historic investments.”

Individual funding constitutes the first phase while a second phase would include compensating estates of deceased victims and victims of non-diocesan personnel “depends in large part on any future contributions by insurance companies and religious orders.”