BUFFALO, N.Y. (ChurchMilitant.com) - An insurance provider for the Buffalo diocese is refusing to pay for sex abuse that was either covered up or not reported in a timely manner.
Continental Insurance Company (CIC) filed a lawsuit in Erie County State Supreme Court on Oct. 3 contending that the apparent cover-up by the diocese of clerical sex abuse voids its policy. In its lawsuit, CIC asserts its policy only covers claims caused by "accidents":
Continental has no obligation to provide insurance coverage to the Diocese with respect to any sexual abuse claim, to the extent that the Diocese knew prior to the abuse that the relevant priest had: (i) engaged in earlier sexual abuse; (ii) posed a danger to children; or (iii) a propensity to commit sexual abuse.
The lawsuit by CIC points to press reports showing the diocese exhibited a pattern of covering up sex abuse allegations for decades. Attorney Michael Hayes, who represents alleged victims of sex abuse in Buffalo, told WKBW on Thursday that he agrees with CIC's claim of a diocesan-wide cover-up.
"The evidence and your reporting," said Hayes, "has seemed to indicate that they, in fact, did know that these priests did this; that they, in fact, had secret files that they kept track of all these people; and that they, in fact, actually covered up. It seems to be pretty clear."
The second issue nullifying the policy, as per CIC's lawsuit, is that the diocese failed to notify CIC of the abusive actions involving its priests in a timely manner.
"The entire policy shall be void if, whether before or after a loss, the insured has willfully concealed or misrepresented any material fact or circumstance concerning this insurance or the subject thereof," reads the lawsuit.
You must inform your insurance carrier right away of any potential claim, says Hayes:
But you come up a year, two, five, 20, 50 later and say, "Oh, I think this guy was a bad guy and we want you to defend us and pay us and indemnify." They're going to say, "Are you crazy! You didn't tell us. You were supposed to tell us right away."
The diocese is now facing some 170 lawsuits filed since the Child Victims Act opened a legal window in August. Experts say the diocese will need insurance money to avoid filing bankruptcy.
"My personal evaluation based on what other dioceses have done," observed Hayes, "is absolutely they're going to go into bankruptcy protection and they stay out of court. They stay away from juries."
As the battle heats up over who will pay the multi-million-dollar settlements to victims of Buffalo's clerical sex abuse and the millions more in legal fees, the Vatican's investigation led by Brooklyn's Bp. Nicholas DiMarzio advances.
A press release by Buffalo announced on Thursday that DiMarzio had interviewed "30 individuals" regarding the apostolic visitation of the diocese authorized by Pope Francis. This visitation is billed as a fact-finding mission and "not subject to the recent instruction of the Holy See, VOX ESTIS, LUX MUNDI — YOU ARE THE LIGHT OF THE WORLD (Vox Estis)."
Archbishop Christophe Pierre, the papal nuncio to the United States clarified on Oct. 3 that Pope Francis authorized the special investigation because he wants Buffalo's sex abuse scandal to be thoroughly investigated.
"The Holy Father said, 'We need to do a total investigation to go to the roots of the problem,' and Bishop DiMarzio, because of who he is, was given this task," related Pierre. "Certainly, it is a sign of trust toward Bishop DiMarzio."