PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — A July 31st deadline is quickly approaching for those abused by priests in the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh to apply for compensation from the diocese’s Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program.

State Attorney General Josh Shapiro is critical of both the program and the arbitrary deadline.

“I think it’s a false choice. It’s an artificial, phony deadline that the church has put forth,” Shapiro told KDKA’s Jon Delano in an exclusive sit-down interview on Friday.

Under the diocese’s plan, those abused as minors by priests can file for mutually agreed-upon compensation which, if accepted, requires the individual to waive all future legal claims against the diocese.

“They’ve concocted this scheme to put forward these compensation funds where they’ve basically said to these individuals, you better quickly line up, we’ll give you a little bit of money, and you’re going to do away with any claims you have against the church,” he said.

The problem for some survivors is that the state Senate has yet to approve a lifting of the statute of limitations, recommended by the Grand Jury, to allow those abused by priests years ago to sue the diocese.

“More than 170 members of the Pennsylvania House of Representatives voted for those Grand Jury reforms,” said Shapiro. “There are more than enough votes in the state Senate to pass it if it was ever brought up for a vote.”

“But in the meantime, the bishops could be doing the right thing and actually lobbying for the Grand Jury reforms. Instead, bishops like Bishop Zubik are trying to stop that progress and make it harder for survivors in Pennsylvania,” he said.

The diocese had no response to Shapiro but referred to Bishop Zubik’s earlier statement where he noted, “The program is designed to help survivors come forward in an atmosphere where their interests are secure and respected, without the uncertainty and stress of litigation.”