Harrisburg diocese looks to atone with $12 million in payments to survivors

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HARRISBURG, Pa. – In the year since a grand jury report identified more than a hundred priests accused of sexual abuse in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg, the diocese said it has attempted to make amends with the community.

Most recently, the Survivor Compensation Program was enacted by the diocese to serve as a means of reparations for the survivors of abuse, managed by private mediation firm Commonwealth Mediation and Conciliation, Inc.

112 survivors participated in the program with 106 survivors accepting an offer of compensation. $12.1 million total payments were made to survivors in the program.

The process of attempting to amend began with the removal of all bishops names from positions of honor within the diocese for failing to do enough to prevent childhood sexual abuse and of priests, deacons and seminarians named in the report.

The diocese additionally conducted nine listening sessions for church members and survivors to express their concerns and frustrations with the church.

Moving forward, the Harrisburg diocese said it looks to continually attempt to right an understated gross oversight by implementing more than a dozen procedures.

The diocese has contracted Janet McNeal, a retired Pennsylvania State Police Captain who oversaw Megan’s Law, to oversee the Diocese’s Safe Environment Program.

In conjunction, reconstituting the diocesan pastoral council will be done as well as restructuring the diocesan review board and revising youth protection policies.

The diocese also plans to maintain an “intensive screening and education process” for those in formation for the priesthood.

The diocese released the following statement one year after the release of the Grand Jury Report, highlighting its efforts over the past year to support survivors and make the diocese a safer place for children.

“In my own name, and in the name of the Diocesan Church of Harrisburg, I express our profound sorrow and apologize to the survivors of child sex abuse, the Catholic faithful and the general public for the abuses that took place and for those church officials who failed to protect children. We have and continue to take steps forward to support survivors and ensure these abuses never occur again.”– Bishop Ronald W. Gainer

This comment addresses the large scale sexual abuse scandal of last year when a grand jury report identified more than 300 “predator priests” and other clergy members accused of crimes against children since the 1940s.

The report last August said more than 1,000 child victims were identified during the two-year investigation, however, the real number is likely in the thousands due to lost records and many victims afraid to come forward.

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