Facing 260 priest abuse lawsuits, more than any diocese in New York state including the Archdiocese of New York, has filed for bankruptcy protection. The Buffalo filing marks the second diocese in the Empire State to file for bankruptcy as a result of the priest abuse scandal and the Child Victims Act. The Diocese of Rochester was the first New York diocese to file for bankruptcy protection.
The Buffalo News reports, “The filing puts the lawsuits on hold and stops efforts by debtors to collect from the diocese. It does not mean that the diocese or its parishes are going out of business. The diocese’s voluntary petition for non-individuals listed assets of $10 to $50 million and liabilities of $50 to $100 million and said the diocese had between 200 and 999 creditors.”
Since 2004, 23 dioceses across the country – including the Diocese of Harrisburg, Pa., last week – have sought bankruptcy protection in their efforts to settle lawsuits over clergy sexual abuse of children.
Officials at the Diocese of Buffalo expect up to 400 abuse claims before the close of the one year window provided by the Child Victims Act. That window closes August 14, 2020.
Some Child Victims Act lawsuits already have trial dates in place. All of those cases will be stayed in state court and likely transferred into U.S. Bankruptcy Court for adjudication. Based on past diocese bankruptcies, most, if not all, of the sex abuse cases against the diocese now are unlikely to go to trial. Childhood victims of clergy sex abuse have railed against the bankruptcy filings, saying they allow dioceses to continue hiding how they covered up abuse and shuffled child-molesting priests among parishes.
The Diocese of Buffalo has been rocked by the scandal in the last two years. Last December, Bishop Richard Malone resigned in the wake of his role in the priest abuse scandal. According to the Buffalo News, “The bankruptcy filing was the latest blow for more than a half-million area Catholics, who are weary and frustrated by a continued drumbeat of bad news about the diocese, which began after a retired priest Norbert Orsolits admitted to The Buffalo News in February 2018 that he had molested probably dozens of boys decades ago.
A stream of revelations of childhood sex abuse involving dozens of other priests followed, prompting Malone’s secretary to leak internal documents to media outlets, a civil investigation by the state Attorney General’s Office, an FBI probe including a subpoena of diocese records and international media attention.”
The crisis became so acute that the Vatican ordered Brooklyn bishop Nicholas DiMarzio to conduct an apostolic investigation. DiMarzio’s investigation was hamstrung after revelations became public that he too had become the focus of a sexual abuse allegation.
The Buffalo bankruptcy will stay all litigation for survivors who have already filed lawsuits. However, if you or a loved one were abused by a priest of the Diocese of Buffalo, the time to act is now. Once the deadline for new claims has expired in the bankruptcy court, you may be forever barred from seeking justice against the Diocese of Buffalo. Now is the time to contact Attorney Joe Saunders for a free initial consultation.
Admitted to practice law in all federal multidistrict litigation courts, the California State Bar and the Florida Bar. His philosophy is to provide aggressive, quality representations and seek fair compensation for individuals and their families who have suffered injury, death, or sexual abuse.