Pa Catholic diocese sets up 1.25 mln dollars abuse fund

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PHILADELPHIA, Sep 17 (Reuters) The Roman Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh has voluntarily set up a 1.25 million dollars fund to aid the victims of 32 cases of clergy sexual abuse, an attorney for the victims said today.

The fund will be distributed by an independent arbitrator based on each victim's age, the type of abuse and how it has affected the person's life, said Alan Perer of the Pittsburgh law firm SPK.

Victims also will be given generous counseling, he said.

Perer said he had ''mixed feelings'' about the settlement because he would like to have obtained more for his clients. But he said the Pennsylvania courts had barred lawsuits because the alleged abuses, most of which occurred during the 1960s, were too long ago.

The victims were 23 men and nine women who are mostly now in their 40s and 50s, Perer said. Three other men withdrew their claims. The abuse was committed by about 20 clergy, many of whom are now dead, Perer said.

He said one of the alleged abusers had applied for a counseling position in West Virginia but had been rejected when victims alerted the authorities there about the man's record.

The Catholic Church, in which priests take a vow of celibacy, has faced abuse allegations worldwide in the past decade. Victims have charged that church leaders often knew of abusive priests but did not do enough to stop it.

In July the Archdiocese of Los Angeles reached a record 660 million dollars deal to settle clergy abuse cases.

REUTERS AM ND2300

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