Local Catholic Dioceses Face Millions In Increased Legal Fees

Financial statements reveal dramatic increases in legal fees following bombshell grand jury report

December 03, 2018 - 5:12 pm

PITTSBURGH (Newsradio 1020 KDKA) - Pennsylvania Catholic dioceses are facing increased legal fees following the release of the grand jury report detailing decades of sexual abuse in state Catholic churches.

Diocesan financial statements reveal the Greensburg diocese paid $432,285 in legal expenses in 2018, which is up from the $393,354 of 2017 and nearly five times the amount of $75,706 in 2016.

The Erie diocese saw $2,987,226 in legal expenses and an increase of nearly two million dollars in total expenses, the majority of that coming from the legal costs.

Bishop Lawrence Persico of Erie told KDKA Radio the expenses covered several necessary actions following the grand jury report.

"That money was to pay for preparing the documents for the attorney general's office that we had to submit. It was also used to help change our policy on the protection of children. It also was used to help develop and investigate our list of credibly accused persons, and it was also fees for the times in which people were called, well, clergy were called to come before the grand jury."

The Pittsburgh diocese has yet to release their 2018 financial statements. Neither they nor the Greensburg diocese cared to comment.

Bishop David Zubik of the Pittsburgh diocese is in the midst of four listening sessions at local churches where parishioners can express their concerns following the grand jury report. He will host three this week, with one Monday night at Saint Thomas A' Becket Church in Jefferson Hills. There will also be one Tuesday, December 4 at Our Lady of Fatima Church in Hopewell Township and another Thursday, December 6 at Saint Ferdinand Church in Cranberry Township. Each hearing begins at 7:00 pm. At the first listening session on November 29, some said they were concerned that Sunday offerings and other parish money were being used to cover these legal expenses. However, Pennsylvania dioceses have said they will not use parish funds for these costs.

Persico committed to avoiding parish funds, as well. 

"We are not taking any contributions that people make to their parishes. By church law, I can't take that money because it belongs to the parishes."

Voice of the Faithful, a lay organization of Catholics, was founded in 2002 in response to sexual abuse in the Catholic Church. They performed an audit of all United States dioceses to assess their financial reporting transparency. The Erie diocese scored a state-high 55 points, with Pittsburgh scoring 42 and Greensburg scoring 31. Only 13 dioceses scored 56 or higher, while 11 scored 19 or lower.