Bishops Start Counseling Fund

Associated Press, carried in Cincinnati Post [Cleveland OH]
November 17, 2006

Cleveland - Survivors of childhood sexual abuse by clergy say a new $3 million assistance fund set up by Ohio bishops is merely a publicity stunt.

The Diocese of Cleveland, seven other Roman Catholic dioceses in Ohio and the Parma Byzantine Eparchy have contributed money to create the voluntary Counseling Assistance Fund aimed at victims who no longer trust the church to help them.

The Catholic Conference is alerting mental health agencies and is asking all the state's parishes to publicize the fund at weekend Masses.

Barbara Blaine, president of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, criticized the fund as "one more public relations move that's basically designed to forestall any real legislative reform." She said the Catholic Conference fought hard this year against an effort in the General Assembly to allow abuse victims an extra year to file civil lawsuits after the current deadline expires.

She said the new counseling program "is an attempt to thwart any future legislative efforts."

To be eligible, survivors must have been living in Ohio at the time of the abuse, not be part of a diocesan counseling program and must not have a pending legal claim against the church. Claims are evaluated by a panel that the church said is independently appointed by county Probate Court judges and other public officials.

People whose claims are approved may obtain services from any mental health provider licensed in the state where they live.

Nationally, more than 12,000 accusations of abuse have been made against Catholic clergy since 1950. The costs to the church of addressing abuse-related expenses were nearly $467 million last year.


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