Paul Muschick on Allentown Diocese job cuts: Abuse victims should keep filing claims

By Paul Muschick
Morning Call
July 02, 2019

The Allentown Diocese will cut its office staff by nearly a quarter and enact a pay freeze to compensate victims of clergy sexual abuse, officials announced Monday.

The Catholic church clergy sex abuse scandal has claimed new victims — employees who were let go or suffered other consequences because the church finally had to compensate victims.

The Allentown Diocese announced Monday that it has cut operating costs and is reducing its office work force by 24 percent. Pay freezes were instituted and departments were restructured.

A news release said the changes were necessary so the diocese could “continue its charitable and pastoral mission throughout its five counties while freeing up funds to compensate victims of clergy sexual abuse.”

Most of the 23-person reduction occurred through attrition, including a voluntary retirement program, the diocese said. A spokesman wouldn’t disclose how many workers were laid off.

I feel for people who lost their jobs or suffered other repercussions. But if they’re looking for someone to blame, don’t blame the abuse victims who filed claims and were compensated. Blame church officials for not heading off this problem decades ago.

Reducing staff isn’t the only way to free up money. When the diocese opened the compensation fund in April, it said options for funding it included selling assets and borrowing money. Spokesman Matt Kerr told me money has been borrowed and assets have been sold.

If more money still is necessary, more of that could be done.

The diocese also could cut back on the charitable services it provides. That’s a tough choice, and could create even more victims — the aid recipients who don’t get the help they need. But it’s an option.

Allentown and other Pennsylvania dioceses created compensation funds in response to a grand jury report released last summer that detailed sexual abuse accusations against 301 priests statewide who had abused hundreds of children over several decades.

The report named 37 priests from the Allentown Diocese, and the diocese itself added another 15 names.

The diocese has not disclosed how much it has paid in claims so far. As of May, the Archdiocese of Philadelphia and the Diocese of Scranton had paid a total of nearly $21.8 million to 110 victims.

The announcement of layoffs in Allentown should not discourage abuse victims from filing claims, which are due by Sept. 30.

Victims are entitled to be compensated for the horrors they experienced. The statute of limitations to sue has long passed for most victims, and with state lawmakers refusing to reopen that window amid lobbying by the church, the diocese compensation fund is their only opportunity.




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