Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese Creates $1.25M Fund to Settle 32 Sex Abuse Lawsuits

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh said Monday it has created a $1.25 million fund to settle 32 lawsuits alleging abuse or injury by priests.

In a joint statement with an attorney for the plaintiffs, the diocese said it wanted to settle even though Pennsylvania's statute of limitations barred many victims from filing personal injury claims.

Plaintiff's attorney Alan H. Perer said the gesture "is very much appreciated."

"Often institutions brush these sorts of things under the rug as soon as possible," Perer said in the statement. "It was important and admirable for the Diocese to step forward and offer these people help and some form of compensation."

The diocese also will offer a program of counseling and healing.

Bishop Paul J. Bradley, diocesan administrator, praised both sides for moving from an adversarial relationship toward "conciliation and agreement."

The lawsuits involved represented 32 individuals. Three other lawsuits against the diocese are still pending, said the Rev. Ronald Lengwin, a diocesan spokesman.

Sex abuse by Roman Catholic priests has cost the U.S. church at least $2.3 billion since 1950, including several multimillion-dollar settlements reached since the most recent crisis erupted in 2002.

The largest settlement announced so far involved the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, which agreed to pay $660 million to about 500 people in July, shortly before jury selection was scheduled to begin in the first of 15 trials involving 172 abuse claimants there.

Pittsburgh has one of the largest Catholic dioceses in the country, with more than 760,000 parishioners who make up nearly 40 percent of the population in a six-county area.