PITTSBURGH (KDKA/AP) — A judge has denied a request by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh to use an $8 million-plus fund for needy children to help compensate victims of sexual abuse by priests.
Judge Lawrence O’Toole denied the request Monday despite a plea from the diocese that the funds are needed to avoid bankruptcy.
With nearly 400 people filing claims of clergy sexual abuse, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh must now come up with tens of millions of dollars to pay them.
The diocese wanted to use money from a trust fund for the Toner Institute — a home and school to orphans and troubled boys that operated in Brookline from 1921 to 1977.
The orphanage is gone now, but the $140,000 left by the late James Toner in 1899 has now grown close to $9 million.
In an interview this summer, Bishop David Zubik said the diocese needs it to compensate victims.
“Our funds are limited, so we have only so much we can work with,” Zubik said.
But Attorney General Josh Shapiro — whose report detailed the abuse of minors at the hands of diocesan priests — objected.
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In papers filed in court, his office said Toner “would never have intended his charitable gift to be used for this purpose.”
In denying the use of the fund, O’Toole offered no explanation but Shapiro argued, “This trust was established to help better the lives of children, and it’s purposes have no correlation to the attempted use of paying the victims of alleged clergy sexual abuse.”
The bishop has repeatedly tried to assure parishioners that neither their weekly contributions nor their Church Alive donations will be used to compensate victims.
Robert Ridge — attorney for the diocese — intimated in court that the if the use of the Toner funds were denied, a bankruptcy filing would be likely.
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