New York’s Diocese of Rochester Files for Bankruptcy

Posted on: October 30, 2020 Catholic Church Sexual Abuse

New York’s Diocese of Rochester Files for BankruptcyIn September of 2019, the Diocese of Rochester filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection at the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Rochester. At the time of the filing, the petition noted the Diocese had $50-$100 million in assets, with liability estimates totaling $100 to $500 million. The Diocese of Rochester was the first New York diocese to choose Chapter 11 reorganization, however the Dioceses of Syracuse, Buffalo and Rockville Centre have all since filed as well. The Rochester diocese covers 12 upstate New York counties where an estimated 360,000 Catholics live.

The Diocese of Rochester, along with the other New York dioceses that filed for bankruptcy, are citing the pending sexual abuse litigation stemming from claims made possible through the passing of the Child Victims Act as the reason for seeking bankruptcy protection. While church officials have touted bankruptcy as a fair way to distribute compensation to victims, dioceses may get untold benefits from seeking this route.

For instance, filing for bankruptcy could keep the dioceses out of a public trial which could potentially reveal evidence exposing the church’s cover-up of pedophile priests. Additionally, during the temporary stop in litigation per the bankruptcy laws, the conversation often moves away from victims’ needs and shifts towards the diocese’s financials which would be a welcomed distraction from the public spotlight on its clergy’s sins.

Another way filing for bankruptcy could help a diocese is by imposing a “bar date”. The bankruptcy court will set a “bar date”, the date by which creditors must submit proof of claims. In the case of a Catholic diocese bankruptcy, the creditor could be a sexual abuse survivor. If a survivor does not come forward before the specified bar date, potentially unware that such a time limit exists, their claim may be rejected. While potentially harmful to survivors who aren’t yet ready to come forward about the abuse, the bar date could indirectly help limit the diocese’s financial liabilities.

The Diocese of Rochester’s bar date was August 13, 2020, which was set back in February 2020. A motion filed to extend the date by five months was denied by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Paul R. Warren. He stated the federal courts remained operational during the Covid-19 pandemic, and cited as proof the fact that 172 of 175 abuse claims were filed before mid-March. Moreover, both parties have been continually publishing the August 13, 2020 deadline and a change could cause confusion on the actual date.

In a September of 2020 Letter to the Faithful, the Bishop of Rochester stated approximately 500 claims of sexual abuse have been filed against the diocese.

The entire article can be viewed here.

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