The Catholic Diocese of Buffalo, which has recently been hit by hundreds of child sex abuse claims, has announced it will terminate pay and health benefits for 23 priests involved in the allegations. The move comes after the diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in late February.
The diocese is facing over 250 lawsuits alleging child sex abuse by its priests. That’s more than any other diocese in New York.
In a letter, Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger explained that the termination of pay was part of an agreement reached in federal bankruptcy court with the committee representing over 200 survivors suing the diocese under New York’s Child Victims Act. Enacted on August 15, 2019, the statewide Child Victims Act opened a one-year window for survivors to sue the Catholic Church for abuse they suffered as children, despite how much time has passed.
The Buffalo diocese was the second diocese in New York, following Rochester, to file for bankruptcy as a result of the priest abuse scandal and the Child Victims Act. While these bankruptcy filings show the Catholic church is facing a severe financial hit from the lawsuits, survivors say they allow dioceses to escape retribution for covering up and enabling decades of abuse by shuffling child-molesting priests among parishes.
The 23 Catholic priests removed from the Buffalo diocese’s payroll were all on leave as result of abuse claims, according to the Buffalo News. Collectively, the salary or pension they continued to receive from the diocese amounted to at least $600,000 per year. Three of the priests had remained on the diocese’s payroll even though they hadn’t officially functioned as clergy in over 25 years.
The Buffalo diocese’s bankruptcy puts a stay on all litigation for survivors who have already filed lawsuits. It’s likely most, if not all, of those cases will not go to trial and will be transferred to bankruptcy court. Some cases against individual parishes or Catholic schools could still be moved back to the state supreme court, but the diocese is trying to stop that from happening by filing for an injunction on all cases brought against other entities of the Catholic church. The federal bankruptcy court has not yet decided whether it will grant that injunction.
While the Diocese of Buffalo is certainly putting up a fight to escape the repercussions of its horrendous actions, victims still have a chance to hold the Catholic church accountable for their suffering. If you or a loved one were abused by a priest of the Diocese of Buffalo, the time to act is now. Once the Child Victims Act expires on August 14, 2020, you may be forever barred from seeking compensation that can help provide justice and healing.
At Saunders & Walker, we know how difficult it can be to come forward after being abused, but there’s never been a better time to tell your story. Many states have joined New York in enacting laws that give survivors a window of time to file sex abuse lawsuits, even if the alleged abuse occurred decades ago.
If a priest or another member of a church sexually abused you, or anybody you know, please contact Saunders & Walker at 1-800-748-7115 to discuss your legal options. All conversations will be kept strictly confidential.
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.