The accusations concerned incidents that are often decades old. Most of the priests accused of abuse have died.
Seven of the eight Roman Catholic dioceses of Pennsylvania have said they will create compensation funds for victims of clergy sex abuse. The Altoona-Johnstown diocese started its own victim assistance program in 1999.
Bishop Lawrence Persico of Erie, Pa. announced details of a victims' compensation fund on Friday, the Erie Times-News reports. That fund will also be administered by Feinberg and Biros, who are administering other funds in Pennsylvania.
"It is my sincere hope that the establishment of the Diocese of Erie's Survivors' Reparation Fund will provide some measure of justice, closure and validation for the terrible acts that victims endured," Persico said. "Although money will never fully heal the deep wounds felt by survivors, this fund is a crucial step in the diocese's ongoing reconciliation and reform efforts."
Victims could have access to the fund by mid-February, with a claims period open for six months.
Known victims of abuse, whether by diocesan clergy, lay employees or diocesan volunteers, will be notified by letter.
Those victims not known to the diocese may submit a form on the Diocese of Erie's website. Those who claim abuse will be asked to submit documents backing their claim.
Both minors and vulnerable adults will be eligible for the first phase of compensation, but not those who were victimized by members of religious orders.
The fund administrators will determine compensation based on many factors including the severity and duration of abuse; the age of the victim at the time of abuse; whether the diocese failed to act on prior knowledge of the accused abuser; when the abuse was reported; and the credibility of the claim.
Victims who accept compensation will be required to waive any rights they have against the diocese related to sex abuse allegations.
Persico emphasized that victims who accept compensation will not be obligated to refrain from public comment or public disclosure of abuse.
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The estates of deceased victims and victims of non-diocesan personnel could be compensated in a second phase, depending on future contributions from insurance companies and religious orders.
Persico has said he favors such a compensation fund rather than a two-year window for victims of past sexual abuse to sue in cases where the statute of limitations for civil action has expired. Such legislation is stalled in the Pennsylvania legislature.
The diocese has argued that even if the statutes of limitations is lifted, the first claimants could receive significant judgments that leave little compensation for the majority of other victims.
Persico has backed an end to the abolition of statute of limitation for criminal penalties for sex abuse.