By: KDKA-TV News Staff
PITTSBURGH (KDKA) – An independent mediator paid out over $19 million to victims of sexual abuse by clergy in the Diocese of Pittsburgh.READ MORE: Lutheran Service Society To Begin Delivering Meals To Beaver Co. Caregivers
The diocese announced Thursday that the Kenneth Feinberg Group completed its administration of the Diocese of Pittsburgh Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program.
More than 75% have accepted their offers, but the diocese is embroiled in a series of court battles that could mean more money served to the victims.
Since the fund opened in 2019, the diocese says $19,237,000 was granted to victims in 224 cases. According to the diocese, of the 369 total sexual abuse claims submitted, 297 were eligible. Twenty-one claimants didn’t respond to their offers and 52 rejected offers.
“We made sure that no monies were taken from parishes or schools or from Our Campaign For the Church Alive or from the sale of parish assets,” said Christopher Ponticello, Diocese of Pittsburgh Chief Legal Counsel.
Ponticello says, “All funds were obtained from sources within the church. In particular from the sale of historical diocesan assets or properties. Funds were accumulating in savings basically.”READ MORE: Police: Missing Child, 6, Killed And Put Into The Ohio River
At this time, the diocese has no plans on making drastic measures to make up for the $19 million loss.
“We’re doing everything we can to make sure we don’t have to file bankruptcy and we are working hard at that, so at this particular point, we have been free of having to move in that direction,” said Zubik.
Attorney Robert Pierce represents more than a dozen clients with claims against the Diocese of Pittsburgh, including some who were unable to apply for the fund which closed Oct. 31. More money could still be awarded from that pending litigation for those other victims.
“Sometimes it took some of our clients hearing of others going through it and trying to resolve them that allowed them to come forward. Unfortunately many were unable to file claims within the imposed deadline so now they have to do through the litigation process,” said Pierce.
The diocese said the abuse occurred over “many decades, with the vast majority prior to 1990.” It says it will continue efforts to help survivors heal, including support groups and other avenues.MORE NEWS: 39-Year-Old Man Struck, Killed In Mt. Pleasant Township Following ATV Crash
“My heart continues to grieve for the victims of childhood sexual abuse, especially those abused by clergy, the very people who were ordained to guide them to a life of holiness,” Bishop David Zubik said in a release. “It is my prayer that this compensation will provide support that victims/survivors need on their path toward healing.”