Diocese of Erie pays $16.6M to sexual abuse survivors

Pittsburgh Post-Gazette [Pittsburgh PA]

May 20, 2021

By Keith Gushard

The Diocese of Erie has paid out $16.6 million to a total of 134 survivors of sexual abuse committed by clergy or laypersons of the diocese.

The announcement came Tuesday as the diocese said administrators hired to oversee its independent survivors’ reparation program have completed their work and closed out the fund.

The diocese launched its compensation fund in 2019, giving survivors of sexual abuse committed by men and women affiliated with the diocese a six-month window to file a claim. Claims were accepted from Feb. 15 to Aug. 15, 2019, regardless of when the abuse took place.

The Most Rev. Lawrence Persico, bishop of Erie, announced the figures along with a letter to pastors on Monday. The letter will be shared with parishioners beginning this weekend.

The fund was financed through $22.5 million in lines of credit obtained by the diocese and secured by its investments.

No money donated to the diocese’s annual Catholic Services Appeal or to the Catholic Foundation of Northwest Pennsylvania was used for the fund, according to the letter from Rev. Persico.

The letter also states the operating budgets of parishes and schools within the diocese were not used to support the effort. No company that had insured the diocese for this purpose over several decades agreed to make any payments, the letter states.

The compensation fund was managed by Kenneth Feinberg and Camille Biros, mediation experts with a national reputation for handling claims.

Mr. Feinberg served as special master for the Sept. 11 Victims Compensation Fund, New York diocesan abuse funds, and Penn State University’s compensation fund for victims in the child sex abuse scandal involving Jerry Sandusky.

Independent assessments of each claim against the Diocese of Erie were made by the fund. Compensation offers were done in a victim-centered and transparent distribution process for prompt payouts without the need for private lawyers.

According to the diocese, figures from the compensation fund’s administrators had a total 181 abuse applications submitted with 134 applicants accepting offers, totaling $16.6 million claims paid. There were another seven claimants who chose not to accept the fund’s financial offers.

The independent administrators declined to make offers to 30 other claimants, and an additional 10 claimants were deemed ineligible for the program.