Sexual Abuse Lawsuits Bankrupt the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island, New York (N.Y.)
LONG ISLAND, NY – October 19, 2020 – According to an online news report on Bloomberg.com, the Long Island Catholic Diocese has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection following hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits and the economic consequences of the coronavirus pandemic. This will be the fourth diocese in New York to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy following the extension of the statute of limitations on sex abuse cases in 2019. New York recently postponed the state’s statute of limitations in these cases and gave church sex abuse victims additional time to file civil lawsuits over alleged sexual abuse by priests.
Sexual Abuse Victims Have More Time to File for Monetary Compensation Under The New York Child Victims Act
Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law the Child Victims Act. The law extends the statutes of limitations for sexual abuse victims in the state of New York. Now, the survivors of child sexual abuse and assault may file a civil lawsuit seeking monetary damages until the victim reaches age 55. According to the Child Victims Act of New York, victims of sexual abuse, rape, and other criminal sexual acts, also have up to 20 years to pursue felony criminal charges against their perpetrators.
According to court documents concerning the Long Island diocese’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island has already received service in more than 220 sexual abuse lawsuits. In the diocese’s bankruptcy press release, the diocese stated that the voluntary petition for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code is needed to handle the expenses involved with litigation, address disputes with the Diocese’s insurers, and to facilitate sexual abuse survivor settlements to the victims who brought civil lawsuits against the diocese under New York’s Child Victims Act.
$2 Billion in Assets – Did the Catholic Church Shield $2 billion in Assets from Sex Abuse Lawsuit Settlement Payouts?
According to a January 2020 news article on Bloomberg.com, the U.S. bankruptcy code is being used to “revictimize victims” by church leaders by prioritizing and shielding the U.S. assets of several archdioceses instead of making victims whole. The Chapter 11 bankruptcy case, The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre, 20-12345, in the Southern District of New York in Manhattan, may be viewed here.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island’s number of parishioners is approximately half of the population of Long Island. The diocese is the eighth largest diocese in the U.S. Since 2004, 24 Catholic dioceses have filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in order to address sex abuse cases.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre on Long Island reported its assets and liabilities ranging between $100 million to $500 million. There have been several fiery legal challenges over the asset totals in other U.S. Catholic Church bankruptcy cases. Lawyers for the dioceses’ claim the assets and funds belong to the individual parishes and not the dioceses. However, lawyers for the victims argue that these assets and funds should be included as part of the bankruptcy estate, which will be made available to settle the clergy abuse victims’ cases. Plaintiff’s attorneys are considering litigation against the diocese in bankruptcy court to ascertain what assets the diocese has and where they are located.
A total of four of New York’s eight Roman Catholic dioceses filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. Last year, the Diocese of Rochester was the first dioceses in New York to file bankruptcy. Earlier this year, the Diocese of Buffalo and the Diocese of Syracuse both filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. All four New York dioceses cited the Child Victims Act as the primary reason for filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.
According to recent news covering sex abuse cases throughout the United States, other organizations have used similar strategies due to laws such as the Child Victims Act and other similar laws. The Boy Scouts of America filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy recently due to the number of sexual abuse lawsuits filed against the organization in recent years. One attorney who has represented sex abuse victims in other Catholic organization bankruptcy cases stated that the defendants frequently used bankruptcy proceedings to hide financial records from the public’s awareness. Others involved in the clergy sex abuse cases assert that the goal of dioceses fining bankruptcy is to start a new financial life that is free from claims under the Child Victims Act.
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