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PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The Catholic Bishops of Pennsylvania issued a statement Friday pledging their support for an independent sex abuse survivors’ compensation program.

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In the statement, Pennsylvania’s bishops say they recognize their responsibility to help sexual abuse survivors who cannot pursue civil claims.

The bishops go on to say, in part:

“To that end, we commit ourselves to creating or participating in an independent, voluntary program that will include a panel of qualified experts to review individual cases and determine financial assistance. We understand that this compensation program will require substantial fiscal commitment and all dioceses will be seriously impacted. We stress that it is most important for all experts serving on this panel to be independent of the influence of the Church or of any institution in which children may have been abused.”

CLICK HERE TO READ THE FULL STATEMENT

The Catholic Bishops of Pennsylvania say they believe the panel will allow survivors to avoid difficult and prolonged litigation.

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They also say that considering a window or reviver of the statute of limitations would “inevitably” bankrupt dioceses.

Bishop David Zubik responded to the statement, saying the Diocese of Pittsburgh is prepared to cooperate and contribute financially if the legislature creates a compensation program.

His statement also said, in part:

“Within the Catholic Church, non-disclosure agreements for child victims of clergy sexual abuse have been forbidden since 2002, and the Diocese of Pittsburgh has not enforced earlier agreements. It is my fervent hope that the legislature will create a similar ban on non-disclosure agreements for all victims of child sexual abuse so that no one can prevent survivors from telling their stories. It is likewise essential to empower law enforcement to respond to all victims, by eliminating criminal statutes of limitation for child sexual abuse, clarifying the rules for mandatory reporting and providing stronger penalties for those who fail to protect children.”

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In August, senate president pro tem Joe Scarnati and Erie Bishop Lawrence Persico proposed the establishment of a victim compensation fund to compensate every victim in Pennsylvania with a credible claim against the church, regardless of when the abuse occurred.