Harrisburg diocese ‘open to talks’ on victim compensation fund

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The Roman Catholic Diocese of Harrisburg says it open to talks about establishing a fund for survivors of child sexual abuse by clergy.

The diocese issued a statement Thursday after the top-ranking Republican in the Pennsylvania Senate, President Pro Tempore Joe Scarnati, responded to a grand jury report on “predator priests” by saying the Roman Catholic church should set up a victim compensation fund.

Scarnati said he is opposed to legislation that would retroactively loosen time limits for child sexual abuse lawsuits because it’s unconstitutional.

The Harrisburg diocese said it is considering a number of options to better support survivors of child sexual abuse and is “certainly open to talks” regarding the establishment of a compensation fund.

“As many in the legislature have determined that a lookback provision to the statute of limitations is unconstitutional, this may be the best path forward to assist survivors,” the diocese said in the statement.

“We look forward to continuing dialogue with other dioceses in the Commonwealth as well as the Legislature on this important issue.”

The grand jury on Aug. 14 said it uncovered evidence of child sexual abuse committed by 45 priests and others in the Harrisburg diocese.

The report says church administrators, including bishops, had knowledge of sexual conduct but often dissuaded victims from going to the police or conducted “their own deficient, biased investigating” without reporting the allegations to the proper authorities.

The grand jury said more than 1,000 child victims were identified during a two-year investigation of Harrisburg and five other Pennsylvania dioceses, but the real number is likely in the thousands because records were lost and many victims were afraid to come forward.

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