Abuse survivors furious over NY diocese’s bankruptcy move

Abuse survivors furious over NY diocese’s bankruptcy move September 15, 2019

SNAP, the Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests, has reacted angrily to news that the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester in upstate New York filed for bankruptcy protection on Thursday amid a wave of lawsuits over alleged sexual abuse of children.

Image via YouTube

The bankruptcy was announced by Bishop Salvatore Matano, above. See video here.

SNAP said on its website:

We believe this move by church officials is not about protecting church assets, but rather about protecting their secrets.

It pointed out that Rochester the is the latest diocese to file for bankruptcy as civil cases mount.

So far, 59 cases have been filed against the diocese. In the past, bankruptcy filings have been used to deny survivors their day in civil court, ensure church documents are kept internal, and prevent parishioners and the public from learning details about cases of abuse and cover-up. 

Given the way that bankruptcies have been handled by other dioceses, we expect the Diocese of Rochester will mirror the steps taken in places like Milwaukee, where then-Bishop Dolan transferred more than $50 million to a cemetery fund in order to keep the assets hidden, or in St. Paul-Minneapolis, where church officials fought to use especially low valuations on their property.

According to this report, in announcing the bankruptcy, Matano said during a news conference:

We’ve come to the conclusion that we cannot minister to every victim that comes forward and help them out if we did not go this route.

Mike Finnegan, an attorney for a New York City law firm which has filed more than 30 claims on behalf of survivors against the diocese, said the bankruptcy filing was not surprising. He and others accused the diocese of moving to hide sensitive church documents.

This legal tactic by the bishop is both disgusting at this point and disappointing because it’s an attempt to take away the survivors’ rights to a jury trial and also delay getting to the secrets that only the bishop and his top officials know about.

But Matano insisted that:

We don’t see this in any way as a tactic.

He said it was done with the intent of helping victims get compensation they deserve, not harming them.

The petition for Chapter 11 reorganistion would help the diocese sort out its finances, marshal funds to pay compensation to accusers and create a plan for the diocese to continue

Sponsor of New York Child Victims Act, Brad Hoylman, described the move as “despicable” and said:

We passed the Child Victims Act so survivors would finally have their day in court and hold accountable their abusers and the institutions that may have harbored them.

The petition for Chapter 11 reorganisation would help the diocese sort out its finances, marshal funds to pay compensation to accusers and create a plan for the diocese to continue operating. It estimates the diocese’s assets at between $50 and $100 million and its financial liabilities at between $100 and $500 million.

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  • Michael Neville

    You know, Bishop, if the Catholic Church hadn’t had a policy of supporting and protecting child rapists then you wouldn’t have to file for bankruptcy. If you’d done the legal and moral action of reporting child raping clergy to the appropriate civil authorities then you’d be able to sit on your throne without worrying about where to hide the evidence.

  • barriejohn

    Why didn’t they pray?

  • larry parker

    Morally bankrupt…yes. Financially bankrupt…I don’t think so.

  • Jim Jones

    Why should priests have pensions when the abused get nothing?

  • Martin Penwald

    The roman catholic church is a unique church. A single diocese shouldn’t be able to declare bankrupcy, probably moving its money to Vatican just before filling.

  • Kit Hadley-Day

    all of this, the catholic church is not a franchise organisation, every dioceses is directly connected to the center, if the whole church wants to go into receivership then i am fine with that, otherwise perhaps the pope can sell some of his gold plated toilets to cover the costs.

  • Matt G

    This is my hometown. My father knows the former bishop and describes him as being about as liberal as you can be without getting defrocked. This Matano guy who replaced him is a real right-winger. Apparently a lot of conservatives complained about the liberal guy, and this is who was appointed after his retirement.