PITTSBURGH (KDKA) — More people than anticipated have registered to file sexual abuse claims with the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh.
On the floor around attorney Alan Perer’s desk are the files of clients that allege abuse from the Diocese of Pittsburgh catholic priests.
He said many have come out of the shadows to talk about what happened to them as children.
“I think the scope is far greater than what the grand jury said,” Perer said. “I have people calling me every day saying I never told anyone about this my whole life.”
Wednesday was the deadline for people who hadn’t filed a complaint in past years to register under the diocese’ Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program.
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The program will provide money to compensate victims regardless of when the abuse may have occurred.
According to the independent law firm administering the program, a staggering 372 people have registered or have filed claims. That number far outstrips the 200-250 the diocese had estimated when the program was announced last December.
Thus far, the firm said settlements have been awarded to 36 claimants for a total of just under $5 million, which is an average of $138,000 for each settlement. And if that average holds, the diocese could be looking at paying out upwards of $40 million.
In a recent interview with KDKA, Bishop David Zubik said the diocese is committed to making all victim’s whole and is looking to sell real estate and liquidate certain trusts to pay them.
But he’s also informed clergy and staff drastic belt-tightening is needed to avoid bankruptcy, including shuttering schools and churches if they can’t operate in the black.
“We want to reassure them that we’re not filing for bankruptcy but at the same time we want sure we don’t have to do that in the future,” Zubik said.