Diocese outlines payment structure for clergy abuse victims

In a prepared statement made public yesterday evening, the Diocese of Altoona-Johnstown has publicly come forward, acknowledging there were minors who have been harmed and that they are entitled to compensation.
The announcement came on the heels of a separate announcement made earlier in the morning by Attorney Richard Serbin of Altoona, who represents 21 individuals who last year filed suit against the diocese for sexual misconduct incidents. That announcment was that the Diocese and the litigants reached an agreement for settlement for more than $3.5 million.
“The settlement reflects our deep desire both to aid the healing of victims of clergy abuse and to not incur the inordinate financial burden of lengthy litigation,” read the press release.
In addition to the $3.5 million, $210,000 will be placed in escrow for those individuals who desire counseling and therapy. Individual claimants will be paid varying amount depending on the facts of their cases as determined by an independent arbitrator. Those payments will range from a possibility of $50,000 up to a high payment of $400,000 per individual.
According to Serbin’s office, an independent arbitrator was selected to hear evidence and determine the value of each individual claim.
Prior to the arbitration hearings, there were two accusations that the Diocese could not determine to be abuse. Consequently, those two priests have remained in ministry.
The Diocese said it will continue discussions with various insurance companies to recover the cost of the settlement; however, to provide immediate payment, the Diocese will use the surplus from the Mutual Aid Plan, which is the deposit and loan fund for parish savings accounts. None of the parish deposits or interest will be touched. Only these investment profits, which are owned by the Diocese, will be used for the settlement.
In the press release, the Diocese noted it will not use donations to the Annual Catholic Appeal for the settlements.
Attorney Serbin and his co-counsel have filed lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Philadelphia, the Allentown Diocese and the Diocese of Pittsburgh, asserting the same legal theories on behalf of other abuse victims.