The Diocese of Allentown has cut a quarter of its workforce in order to make money available for a fund to compensate victims of clergy sexual abuse, according to a July 1 statement on the diocesan website.

The reductions affected diocesan workers, not parish staffs, and most occurred through attrition including a voluntary retirement program, the statement said.

After reviewing its business processes and restructuring departments, some 23 of the diocese’s 96 workers were let go. The remaining employees and clergy in administrative roles also will face a pay freeze, according to the release.

While it is making the reductions “to continue its charitable and pastoral mission” throughout Berks, Carbon, Lehigh, Northampton and Schuylkill counties, the diocese acknowledged the reason was to support its Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program.

Like the one operating in the Philadelphia Archdiocese and most other dioceses in Pennsylvania, New Jersey, New York, California and Colorado, the independent fund reviews claims for compensation by victims of sexual abuse by Catholic clergymen and grants what administrators consider to be just monetary awards.

The amounts may not be appealed by the dioceses; they in turn have pledged to pay all approved claims.

When the Allentown Diocese announced the program last April, it “set aside millions of dollars for victim compensation by using available cash, by selling assets and by borrowing money,” according to a statement at the time.

The diocese acknowledged that the funding “would place diocesan operations under severe financial stress,” and that has come to pass.

Now, according to the diocese this week, “cash reserves are no longer available to cover budget deficits. Therefore, cost reductions were necessary to enable charitable and pastoral programs to continue,” the statement said.

“No parish or school assets, no money donated to the Bishop’s Annual Appeal and no future collections at parish Masses are being used to fund the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program.”

Like most dioceses, Allentown serves both Catholics and non-Catholics through an array of programs that rely on both direct donations and on staffing supplied by the diocese. The workforce cuts will result in reduced staff support for such programs.

 

In the statement, diocesan officials “expressed gratitude to affected employees for their years of dedicated service and offered them prayerful best wishes in future endeavors.”