PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — The church scandal has left Bishop David Zubik with two monumental tasks.
He must compensate the victims of alleged clergy sexual abuse while keeping the diocese out of bankruptcy.
To do that, he’s looking to a defunct orphanage in the South Hills, and its endowment of close to $9 million to help fund his victim’s compensation fund.
“We’re working through the proper channels to make sure that we have access to those funds, and we can use them for the IRCP fund,” the bishop said.
But Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro — whose report detailed the abuse of minors at the hands of diocesan priests — is telling the diocese not so fast.
In papers filed in Allegheny County Orphan’s Court — his office said orphanage founder, James L. Toner, “would never have intended his charitable gift to be used for this purpose.”
When Toner died in 1899, he left the diocese $140,000 to build and operate the Toner Institute, which became a home and school for orphans and troubled boys from 1921-77. The Toner Institute is gone, but the Toner Trust has now grown to between $8 and $9 million.
“This trust was established to help better the lives of children, and its purposes have no correlation to the attempted use of paying the victims of alleged clergy sexual abuse,” Shapiro said in the court papers.
But the diocese says it needs the money
While it anticipated between 200 and 250 claims to its victim’s compensation fund, the diocese now estimates between 350 and 400 claims and liability of more than $10 million.
Rather than use collections, the bishop wants to sell real estate and tap funds like the Toner Trust.
A hearing is scheduled for next month, and a judge will decide if these Toner Trust funds can be used to compensate the victims of alleged clergy sex abuse.
If not, the diocese will need to take more drastic steps to avoid bankruptcy.