New York Dioceses Brace for Hundreds of Lawsuits

News: US News
by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  •  August 13, 2019   

Bishops contemplate possible bankruptcy as new cases develop

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BUFFALO, N.Y. ( - New York's eight Latin rite dioceses are bracing for hundreds of clergy sex abuse lawsuits set to be filed this week, with even more on the way.

The Child Victims Act (CVA) opens a one-year window on Wednesday, and multiple legal firms say they have hundreds of sex abuse cases already to file. Even more cases are expected to roll out in the coming months as alleged victims continue coming forward.

The diocese of Buffalo is already facing more than 200 cases expected to be filed on Wednesday with yet another alleged victim speaking out. A news release issued by the legal firm Herman Law says this new case involves an active priest who will be named for the first time on Wednesday.

"A lawsuit is being filed on behalf of an adult male who was sexually abused when he was 8 years old by an active priest who is still employed by the Diocese of Buffalo," said the firm.

Bishops of these eight dioceses are looking at the possibility of bankruptcy. Brooklyn's Bp. Nicholas DiMarzio wrote on Aug. 7 that the total number of sex abuse cases is unknown and may force his diocese to seek bankruptcy protection.

"We do not know how many lawsuits we will face during this window period, and if we will have to declare bankruptcy as a result," DiMarzio said.

DiMarzio's Brooklyn diocese already settled with nearly 500 victims using its Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) it established in June 2017. His Brooklyn diocese released in February the names of more than 100 accused priests.

DiMarzio is still urging victims to use the IRCP to receive compensation rather than drag the diocese through expensive litigation and much higher payouts.

Bishop Richard Malone's diocese of Buffalo in May concluded its IRCP payouts totaling $17.5 million to 106 victims of clerical sex abuse. All IRCP compensation is conditioned on the promise that victims will never sue the diocese.

Although 106 victims received payouts from Buffalo, another 135 applicants were turned down. These cases are also expected to be filed on Wednesday.

The archdiocese of New York under Cdl. Timothy Dolan released in April an incomplete list of 120 credibly accused clergy child abusers. Jeff Anderson & Associates, the legal firm representing hundreds of alleged victims, released a greatly expanded list in August, however, that included the name of 310 clergy sex abusers in the archdiocese.

Since 2016, Dolan's archdiocese has paid out more than $40 million in IRCP payments to some 200 victims of clerical sex abuse. This sidelines these victims from filing on Wednesday. Each of the other dioceses in New York has used similar programs to do likewise.
The perpetrators don't suffer. There's no burden on them.
New York's bishops spent more than $2 million fighting the passage of the CVA. Dolan explained why he was against its passage:
The perpetrators don't suffer. There's no burden on them. What suffers are the services and the ministries of the apostolates that we're doing now. Because where does the money come from? So the bishops of 30 years ago that allegedly may have reassigned abusers, they don't suffer. They're dead. So the people that suffer are those who are being served right now by the church. We feel that's a terribly unjust burden.
Even though all the dioceses in New York have tried to head off the flood of costly litigation that will be coming on Wednesday, it may not stave off bankruptcy. Across the country, some 21 U.S. Catholic dioceses and religious orders have already filed for bankruptcy protection owing to priestly sex abuse.
Bankruptcy protection may not simply be a way for a diocese to save money but also a way of shutting down the discovery of embarrassing information. Legal commentators at The Buffalo News explain it this way:

Declaring bankruptcy freezes legal proceedings against an institution, meaning no jury trials occur in state court. That minimizes the pretrial discovery process in which embarrassing details could surface about efforts that were made to cover up past crimes. Far fewer such details will emerge in discovery before a bankruptcy court proceeding.

They add that if an institution is found to be using bankruptcy as a way of avoiding transparency or of hiding assets, the court may disregard its appeal to file for bankruptcy.


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