Diocese of Harrisburg

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg has thus far paid out  $12.1 million to survivors of sexual abuse by members of the clergy, it was announced Wednesday.

In a release, the diocese stated  that  112 survivors participated in the program and 106 had accepted compensation.

Harrisburg’s Survivor Compensation Program   announcement comes one year after a state grand jury released its report asserting that more than 1,000 children had been molested by hundreds of priests dating back to the 1940s. A hotline established by state Attorney General Josh Shapiro resulted in an additional 1,862 calls.

The compensation comes from a loan from the priest’s retirement fund, said Michael Barley, a spokesman for the Harrisburg Diocese. The diocese also received some funds from other dioceses whose priests were members of orders based in those dioceses but were serving in the Harrisburg Diocese when the sexual abuse occurred. He said the diocese continues to negotiate with  its insurers.

Additional lawsuits are pending.

“This is an issue that’s going to take time,” Barley said. “This is another step in our continued push to restore trust with the church, help survivors and ... to make sure this never happens again.”

Statewide compensation

To date, Catholic compensation funds have paid out $55 million to more than 300 victims in Pennsylvania.

Diocesan compensation funds were begun earlier this year by all of the dioceses included in the grand jury report. In 2016, a similar report found a long-time cover-up in the Altoona-Johnstown Diocese. No compensation fund has been established in that diocese.

Previous reports stated that 38 of the 72 priests and other church leaders who were named in the grand jury report had Lancaster County connections.

The Harrisburg Diocese held a series of nine listening sessions in January and February before creating the Survivor Compensation Program, which has been managed by a private mediation firm — Commonwealth Mediation and Conciliation Inc.

It also removed all bishops names from positions of honor within the diocese for failure to do enough to prevent childhood sexual abuse as well the names of priests, deacons and seminarians named in the report or the grand jury report from positions of honor within the diocese.

The diocese has ensured that all survivors of childhood sexual abuse receive counseling services, at low or no cost to them and from a counselor of their choosing, regardless of their participation in the Survivor Compensation Program. It also  created an email address to offer more access for parishioners and the public to communicate directly with Bishop Ronald Gainer.

In the wake of the grand jury report, the diocese also stated it has reconstituted the Diocesan Pastoral Council and restructured the Diocesan Review Board; revised its youth protection policies; reformed  its screening and education process for those in formation for the priesthood and revised the Safe Environment Program Lesson Plan for Catholic School and Religious Education students.