Diocese of Harrisburg to Compensate Victims of Abuse

HARRISBURG, Pa. -- The program is still in its early stages. According to the Diocese of Harrisburg, the survivors' compensation program will provide financial resources and other assistance to survivors of child sex abuse that happened within the Catholic Church.

It's been several months since a state attorney general's grand jury report was released detailing child sex abuse within the Catholic Church in Pennsylvania. The report found the Catholic Church covered up child sex abuse by more than 300 priests over a period of 70 years.

Each diocese is working through its own process to help the abuse victims.

"The Diocese of Harrisburg is moving forward with developing a survivors' compensation program," said Bishop Ronald Gainer, Diocese of Harrisburg.

Bishop Gainer says the program will provide financial resources and other assistance to survivors of clergy sex abuse. He says the money will not come from donations or parishioners' pockets.

"We plan that the money for this program will come from our reserve, unrestricted diocesan accounts, and the yield from our diocesan investments," said the bishop.

Most Catholics Newswatch 16 spoke with actually don't think this sounds like the best solution. In fact, they think it sounds like the diocese is trying to silence the victims with money.

"I think it's a bribe to keep them quiet, a hush hush," said Brecklynn Michael Matevijec.

"The damage has been done. You can't take that away. But as long as the church is going to help with therapies and other forms to help people cope with the issues that happened to them," said Evelyn Bailoni of Mount Carmel.

Newswatch 16 contacted the local chapter of Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP). Shaun Dougherty, a SNAP volunteer and victim told us:

"Backroom payoffs equal no public disclosure of the abuser or coverup, which will not protect anyone's children from this happening again."

A spokesperson for the Diocese of Harrisburg tells Newswatch 16 an independent board will review survivor claims and determine the amount of compensation for each person. Survivors can start applying in January.

The Diocese of Harrisburg includes five counties in our viewing area: Columbia, Montour, Northumberland, Snyder, and Union.

The Diocese of Scranton also announced a compensation plan on Thursday.

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