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Clergy members in black robes sit together

The Diocese of Buffalo is $5 million in debt and says it’s on the verge of bankruptcy.  It faces nearly 230 sex abuse lawsuits and a sharp decline in donations from disheartened parishioners as many members refused to donate to an organization that tolerated the sexual assaults of children, and did it in ways that ensured further abuses would occur.

If Buffalo files for bankruptcy, it would be the second diocese in the state to do so, following the Diocese of Rochester’s decision to file Chapter 11.

According to an editorial in the Buffalo News, “Some critics are justifiably skeptical that will happen. By declaring bankruptcy, lawsuits filed against the diocese under the 2019 Child Victims Act will move out of state court and into bankruptcy court. Other dioceses that have resorted to that step for financial reasons have also used it as a mechanism to conceal the details of what they did – to continue hiding their sins. On a human level, that impulse may be understandable. No one wants to broadcast the details of their shame. That’s especially true when a venerable organization’s conduct falls so far – so criminally far – below its own standards. For the diocese to voluntarily give up its defenses and tell the world what it did will take an uncommon kind of courage.

Yet, that is the only road open to the Diocese of Buffalo. It can never recover its stature or the support of its disgusted members without first speaking what it did.

The need is evident. The diocese has been operating in the red since at least 2015. For three years, those annual losses totaled no more than $803,727, but in 2018, as the breadth of the clergy scandal started to become known, the deficit reached nearly $1.8 million. Last year, it almost tripled, to just over $5 million.

With that, the diocese cautioned last week that a bankruptcy filing is “imminent.” It may be the only way for it to navigate the flood of lawsuits, far more than any other entity in New York, including the Boy Scouts, schools and other dioceses.”

A bankruptcy filing would allow Buffalo to keep hidden its dirty secrets and how transferring and hiding the abuse of children was maintained and kept from the public for decades.

The apostolic administrator of the Diocese pledged transparency when he assumed leadership of the Diocese of Buffalo but actions speak louder than words.  In order for the Catholic Church to regain the trust of the faithful in the diocese, a great deal of work must be undertaken.  Bankruptcy won’t solve that problem, in fact, it may only serve to hinder such an undertaking.  The Diocese of Buffalo has brought this crisis of confidence upon itself through decades of arrogance, cover-up, and allowing children to suffer at the hands of her ministers.  Mere words or financial strategies won’t solve it either.  The people of the Diocese of Buffalo deserve strong and transparent leadership from someone who is not afraid of the truth.

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