Philadelphia Archdiocese to set aside $25M for abuse victims

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Philadelphia said Tuesday it is putting aside $25 million to start paying claims to people who say its clergy sexually abused them as children.

The archdiocese said it expects to need more money than it has on hand, so it will have to borrow and liquidate assets. A spokesman calls initial funding of $25 million to $30 million, from existing liquid assets, "a floor and not a ceiling."

The archdiocese announced last week it was beginning a claims process and had mailed out a few hundred informational packets to people who had previously reported credible abuse claims.

Most of the state's dioceses are setting up compensation funds.

A proposal to retroactively allow child sexual abuse lawsuits that are otherwise too old to pursue passed the state House by a wide margin but was blocked by state Senate Republicans.

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A grand jury report issued in August identified about 300 priests and other clergy in six of the state's eight dioceses that it said had sexually abused more than 1,000 children dating to the 1940s. Similar widespread abuse was documented in the Philadelphia Archdiocese over a decade ago.

Most of the attacks took place too long ago to result in criminal charges or lawsuits.

The grand jury recommended doing away with the criminal time limits for child sexual abuse going forward, and to allow a "window" for the otherwise time-barred lawsuits to proceed.

Critics of compensation funds say some victims want to confront their abusers, lawsuits can force facts into the open, and settlements can end up being less than what would have resulted from litigation.

The Philadelphia Archdiocese, which includes the city and Bucks, Chester, Delaware and Montgomery counties, is requiring those who want to apply to the compensation fund to register by the end of July and file by the end of September.

Six of the state's seven other dioceses are expected to set up compensation funds and start processing claims early next year. Altoona-Johnstown said it set up a victim fund in 1999.