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Diocese halts abuse victims' fund, citing 'economic turmoil' caused by COVID-19

Diocese halts abuse victims' fund, citing 'economic turmoil' caused by COVID-19

The Catholic Diocese of Erie in Pennsylvania has suspended its compensation fund for the victims of sexual abuse suffered at the hands of their clergy for "at least 90 days," saying their investments took a hit from the coronavirus market downturn.

The diocese — which NPR noted was "identified in 2018 by the state attorney general as one of the places where clergy abuse had been especially egregious" — wrote in a press release, "As a result of the economic turmoil caused by the onset of COVID-19, the Diocese of Erie has temporarily suspended its work with the Independent Survivors' Reparation Program effective March 20, 2020," The Herald reported.

According to the Erie Times-News, the Catholic Diocese of Erie created the fund last year to pay compensation to its victims, and has since "paid out about $6 million in claims to at least 50 victims or survivors."

In 2018, Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) released an 884-page report from a two-year investigation conducted by his office, revealing the covered-up abuses of thousands of children at the hands of Roman Catholic priests in the state over a span of 70 years.

At the time, Erie Diocese Bishop Lawrence Persico — who remains in his position there — said, "The grand jury has challenged us as a Catholic diocese to put victims first and to continue to improve ways to protect children and youth."

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