September 17, 2007 / 5:15 PM / 11 years ago

Pa. Catholic diocese sets up $1.25 mln abuse fund

PHILADELPHIA (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has voluntarily set up a $1.25 million fund to aid the victims of 32 cases of clergy sexual abuse, an attorney for the victims said on Monday.

Ron Lengwin, a spokesman for the diocese, said church authorities had determined that many of the allegations of abuse were “credible” but he said they had not investigated every instance.

“We did not determine whether each one was true or not. In some cases it’s impossible to come to any judgment with (the cases) because they are 50 years old,” he told Reuters.

The fund will be distributed by an independent arbitrator based on each victim’s age, the type of abuse and how it has affected the person’s life, said Alan Perer of the Pittsburgh law firm SPK. Victims also will be given generous counseling, he said.

Perer said he had “mixed feelings” about the settlement because he would like to have obtained more for his clients. But he said the Pennsylvania courts had barred lawsuits because the alleged abuses, most of which occurred during the 1960s, were too long ago.

The victims were 23 men and nine women who are mostly now in their 40s and 50s, Perer said. Three other men withdrew their claims.

He said one of the alleged abusers had applied for a counseling position in West Virginia but had been rejected when victims alerted the authorities there about the man’s record.

The Catholic Church, in which priests take a vow of celibacy, has faced abuse allegations worldwide in the past decade. Victims have charged that church leaders often knew of abusive priests but did not do enough to stop it.

Lengwin said the Catholic Church in Pittsburgh had offered a few years ago to provide counseling to anybody who came forward to say they had been harmed by Catholic clergy.

In all, 17 priests were involved in the cases in question, nine of whom are now dead, he said. The remainder have all been removed from the ministry.

In July the Archdiocese of Los Angeles reached a record $660 million deal to settle clergy abuse cases.

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