A Roman Catholic diocese on Long Island was forced to declare bankruptcy as it faces hundreds of lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by clergy members.
The Diocese of Rockville Centre - one of the largest in the nation - filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Thursday, Oct. 1 after more than 200 lawsuits were filed against them.
“The financial burden of the litigation has been severe and only compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Bishop John Barres, a leader at the diocese that serves 1.4 million Catholics on Long Island, said in a video posted online.
“Our goal is to make sure that all clergy sexual abuse survivors and not just a few who were first to file lawsuits are afforded just and equitable compensation.”
The lawsuits came about following the passage of New York’s Child Victims Act.
Victims of sexual abuse in New York previously were required to file any civil lawsuits before they turned 23.
Under the Child Victims Act, anyone under the age of 55 can file a lawsuit, and during the one-year window, older victims can also make claims through January 14 next year.
The Rockville Centre diocese is the latest of more than 20 Catholic dioceses in the nation to file for bankruptcy in the face of lawsuits over sexual abuse.
“What became clear was that the diocese was not going to be able to carry out its spiritual, charitable, and educational missions if it were to continue to shoulder the increasingly heavy burden of litigation expenses associated with these cases,” Barres added.
Barres said that during the restructuring, Diocesan operations and ministries will continue without interruption, though he noted that they will be prioritizing certain charitable missions on Long Island.
Since the parishes and schools of the Diocese are separate legal entities, Barres noted that they are not included in the Chapter 11 filing.
“'The good work of our parishes and schools are expected to continue as normal,' Barres said. “But it is also the case that after Chapter 11, the diocese will have fewer financial resources to help struggling schools and parishes.”
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