Diocese starts compensation fund for victims of abuse
A fund designed to compensate victims for the harm done by some members of the clergy during a dark chapter in the Diocese of Allentown’s history has begun operation.
Victims of clergy sexual abuse can apply to receive compensation as one aspect of their healing. Cases will be assessed individually, and customized compensation offers will be made by independent administrators.
The Diocese has set aside millions of dollars for victim compensation by using available cash, by selling assets, and by borrowing money. No parish or school assets, and no money donated to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal, will be used for victim compensation. Future collections at parish Masses also will not be used.
“If you suffered abuse at the hands of a priest in our Diocese, I invite you to seek compensation through this fund,” said Bishop Alfred Schlert. “While I know that money alone cannot fully compensate you for the harm you have suffered over these many years, my sincere hope is that compensation will meaningfully assist in your healing and recovery. I humbly apologize to all victims and their families, and to anyone who was harmed by these heinous acts,” said Bishop Schlert.
The Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program will be administered by Washington D.C.-based Attorney Kenneth Feinberg and his colleague, Camille Biros, who have a national reputation for fairness and independence in compensating victims of clergy sexual abuse and other tragedies. It will be open for applications through Sept. 30.
The program is designed to provide victims with prompt compensation, without the need for the uncertainty of years-long litigation. Applying to the fund is voluntary, and victims are not required to accept offers made by the administrators.
Providing funding for the program will place the operations of the Diocese under severe financial stress. Nevertheless, the Diocese will work diligently to continue its pastoral and charitable mission for the communities in its five counties: Berks, Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton and Schuylkill.
To help ensure autonomy, the program will have an Independent Oversight Committee, which will operate without influence or control from the Diocese of Allentown. The committee will be chaired by The Honorable Edward N. Cahn, former Chief U.S. District Judge for the Eastern District of Pennsylvania now retired. Other members are Lisa B. Garbacik, MBA, PHR, SHRM-CP, Executive Director of Human Resources and Title IX Coordinator at Cedar Crest College; and The Honorable Richard Grucela, former State Representative for District 137 in Northampton County, Pennsylvania.
The program covers abuse by priests of the Diocese of Allentown, and abuse by certain religious order priests. The program website, www.AllentownDioceseIRCP.com, contains the full protocol for the program, as well as other information, including Questions and Answers.
Anyone who knows of incidents of abuse should report it to the State ChildLine at 1-800-932-0313 or to local law enforcement. The Diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator is available to provide assistance to anyone who, as a minor, was abused by a priest, deacon, employee, or volunteer of the Diocese, or of its parishes. Her direct line is 1-800-791-9209.