FILE PHOTO: Carolyn Fortney, a survivor of sexual abuse at the hands of her family's Roman Catholic parish priest as a child, awaits legislation in the Pennsylvania Capitol to respond to a landmark state grand jury report on child sexual abuse in the Catholic Church, Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018 in Harrisburg.
Laura Benshoff covers the suburbs for WHYY, 91 FM. Originally from Raleigh, N.C., Laura hasn't had a southern accent in years. She moved to Montreal for college before landing in Philadelphia in 2012.
(Philadelphia) — $32,090,000.
That’s how much money has been offered to victims of sexual abuse by Philadelphia Archdiocese clergy to date, according to Hon. Larry Stengel, chair of the oversight committee for the Archdiocese’ Independent Reconciliation and Reparations Program.
Sept. 30 was the deadline for people who have already told the archdiocese they plan to submit a claim to file them. Compensation funds administered on behalf of the Diocese of Allentown, Scranton, and Pittsburgh also wind down at the same time.
Each program functions slightly differently, with different amounts of settlement funds available. The average award from the Archdiocese of Philadelphia is $235,000, according to Stengel.
Statewide, the awards average about $125,000, said Ben Andreozzi, a Harrisburg-based lawyer who represents dozens of victims of Catholic clergy.
The numbers in Philadelphia give some insight into a program seen by supporters as a restorative process and by critics as a cynical move to reduce liability.
Of the 578 people who registered abuse claims with the Philadelphia Archdiocese, 449 have actually submitted them, Stengel said.
Matt Rourke / The Associated Press
Bishop Ronald Gainer, of the Harrisburg Diocese, arrives to celebrate mass at the Cathedral Church of Saint Patrick in Harrisburg, Pa., Friday, Aug. 17, 2018.
Out of that number, only 156 have completed the process, which takes around three months. Around 2% of people have turned down a settlement amount offered.
“I don’t think any amount of money could compensate people enough,” said Stengel, a former federal judge. “But the fact that 98% of the people receiving offers from the claims administrators are accepting them are pretty strong evidence that they’re adequate and fair.”
Andreozzi disagreed, saying, “For these survivors, this program was essentially jammed down their throat, because they had no other option and they acted in desperation.”
Faced with the threat of a lawsuit, a diocese would have paid roughly twice as much and, in bankruptcy court, about three times as much, he said.
The Pennsylvania Senate Judiciary Committee will hold a hearing Wednesday, with testimony from victims of childhood sexual abuse, constitutional scholars, and others.