Can victim funds help heal wounds of Pa. church sex abuse scandal?

Tribune Review

December 29, 2018

By Aaron Aupperlee

The 15-page packet of information John Delaney received in the mail weighed heavily on him.

Inside was information about a fund set up by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia to compensate victims of sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests and an application to apply.

“I’m not sure what I’m going to do. It’s a hard pill to swallow,” Delaney, 48, said in a telephone interview from his Sevierville, Tenn., home.

Delaney, the first victim of sexual abuse to testify before the Philadelphia grand jury in 2005, could soon face a choice: Accept money from a compensation program that has paid out $25,000 to $500,000 to victims of clergy sexual abuse elsewhere — a tacit acknowledgment from the church that abuse occurred — but give up any chance of ever taking his claim against the church to court. Or he could wait on the Pennsylvania legislature to perhaps, one day, open a legal window for him to sue the church, to have his day in court, and potentially win millions.

The compensation programs offer a chance to heal, bishops across Pennsylvania have said. But attorneys who have shepherded victims through similar funds elsewhere say the funds allow the church to settle claims of sexual abuse for less money and with less public exposure than if it went to court. They say the funds can insulate the church both politically and legally should lawmakers change the statute of limitations and allow old claims.

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