The following statement (see it in PDF format here) was issued by the Archdiocese of Philadelphia Sept. 21.
Pennsylvania’s Bishops: We pledge our support for independent sex abuse survivors’ compensation program
Archbishop Charles J. Chaput, O.F.M. Cap. joined all of the Catholic Bishops of Pennsylvania in issuing the following statement today.
Since the release of the grand jury report on August 14, we the Catholic bishops of Pennsylvania
have reflected deeply on the ugly record of clergy sexual abuse in our Commonwealth, and on
times when Church leadership failed to protect our people over a period of decades.
We fully acknowledge that the Church sometimes failed the most vulnerable among us —
children and young adults. We deeply regret the suffering of survivors and any decisions that
failed to protect them.
As the Pennsylvania General Assembly returns for the fall legislative session, assuring the
protection of children and help for survivors of sexual abuse should rightly be one of its top
priorities. As various alternatives and programs are proposed, we will support all reasonable and
constitutional efforts focused on helping survivors and their families on a path toward healing.
We recognize our responsibility to provide an opportunity for sexual abuse survivors whose
cases are time-barred from pursuing civil claims to share their experiences, identify their abusers,
and receive compensation to assist their healing and recovery.
To that end, we commit ourselves to creating or participating in an independent, voluntary
program that will include a panel of qualified experts to review individual cases and determine
financial assistance. We understand that this compensation program will require substantial
fiscal commitment and all dioceses will be seriously impacted. We stress that it is most important
for all experts serving on this panel to be independent of the influence of the Church or of any
institution in which children may have been abused.
We believe such a program will expedite the process for survivors to present their cases to
experienced, compassionate experts who will determine an outcome for each case in a swift,
efficient manner. In doing so, the panel will provide a resolution to survivors and allow them to
avoid difficult and prolonged litigation. We believe an independent panel is the best option,
considering a window or reviver of the statute of limitations will inevitably result in bankruptcy
for dioceses. Bankruptcy would cripple the ability of a diocese to provide compensation and
healing for survivors, while vastly reducing or eliminating social service programs that greatly
benefit all Pennsylvanians by serving some of the most at-risk people in our communities.
We hope that as the program develops it will be open to any youth service organization, private
or public, to opt into it to fulfill its obligations to survivors of abuse. We welcome legislative
support for such a program.
We cannot undo the harm that childhood sexual abuse has caused, but in humility and repentance
we hope the path forward offers a way toward healing for survivors and their families.
Note: For information regarding efforts on the part of the archdiocese to protect the
children and young people entrusted to her care as well as to assist survivors on their journey to
healing, visit www.AOPPledgetoProtect.com.
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