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Allentown Diocese opens its new compensation fund to victims of priest sex abuse

According to the Morning Call, the Allentown Diocese on Tuesday announced the opening of a five-month window for people who suffered abuse by clergy to file claims for compensation.

In addition to packets of information being sent by overnight courier to more than 100 people who have already reported their abuse to the diocese, a Washington, D.C., law firm specializing in administering victim compensation funds has a call center and website ready for those who may have waited to come forward. Victims have until Sept. 30 to file claims, and the attorney leading the process said Tuesday that most could be settled by the end of the year.

The diocese said in a news release the fund is designed to promptly compensate those abused “during a dark chapter in the Diocese of Allentown’s history,” while sparing them the uncertainty of years of litigation.

Two victims of abuse by priests in the Allentown Diocese said that while a monetary settlement may be meaningful to some, they remained steadfast in their desire to learn more about the decisions that, according to a two-year Pennsylvania grand jury investigation, led church officials to cover up allegations and, in at least one case, work to discredit an accuser.

“I’m always very skeptical about all of these programs,” said David Cerulli, who was molested by an Allentown priest in the 1960s.

“This seems like another effort to push it aside. The church is the organization that worked to cover it up for years,” he said.

Because Cerulli filed a lawsuit against the diocese that was settled in 1991, he would not be eligible for the compensation fund, which the diocese said is closed to anyone who was offered a settlement.

Juliann Bortz, who was abused by a priest in the 1960s and has twice sued the Allentown Diocese, said Tuesday she still holds out hope for a jury trial where those who disregarded her complaints will be compelled to testify under oath.

“I’m still hoping that we could find the truth of what they have done,” she said. “It’s not enough to just give me money.”

Bortz, of Lower Macungie Township, has an active lawsuit against the diocese, alleging church officials, including Schlert, tried to smear and discredit her after she went public with her account of being molested by a priest while she was a student at Allentown Central Catholic High School.

Those who accept the compensation waive their rights to litigate against the diocese.

“This is not about money. It’s about holding the pedophile priests and the church accountable. The right and meaningful thing to do is to allow these victims to have their day in court, find healing and empower other victims to come forward,” said nationally recognized sex abuse attorney Jeff Herman.

“New York had a problem and fixed it. My hope is that other states follow,” said Jeff.

The recent passage of the New York Child Victims Act provides a limited one-year window beginning August 14, 2019 for sexual abuse victims in New York to bring a claim and seek justice.  For decades, abuse victims have been suffering in silence due to the strict statute of limitations in New York. But the time has finally come for justice, healing and empowerment.

If you are a survivor of sexual abuse in New York, Herman Law may be able to help you. Over the past two decades, Jeff Herman has built a national practice and has become one of the nation’s leading childhood sexual abuse attorneys and pioneers, a true champion of his clients’ rights. In 2011, Jeff won a landmark $100 million verdict on behalf of a client who was sexually abused by Father Neil Doherty, a Roman Catholic priest of the Archdiocese of Miami.

Please contact us today to discuss your options.


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