Updated: June 11, 2021 05:53 PM
Created: June 11, 2021 05:26 PM
ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WHEC) — Advocates for survivors of clergy sexual abuse are pushing the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester to stop delaying legal proceedings. They claim the diocese is using its bankruptcy status as a means of buying time.
Robert Hoatson is a former priest, a sexual abuse survivor, and president of the New Jersey-based non-profit Road to Recovery, Inc. He and other advocates say the diocese’s “delaying tactics” have gone on long enough.
Our crew is standing by to hear from people who say the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester is using “delaying tactics” to prolong court hearing for victims of clergy sexual abuse. More to come tonight on @news10nbc pic.twitter.com/XgHHo7jnsN— Emily Putnam (@whec_eputnam) June 11, 2021
"Innocent children were abused by clergy," Hoatson said. "Then they come forward expecting some sort of justice, and then they get involved in a process like this bankruptcy."
The Diocese of Rochester filed for bankruptcy in 2019, which is the same year that the Child Victim Act was signed into law. The act effectively lengthens the amount of time adult victims of sexual abuse have to come forward with their claims. Some of the people filing claims are in their 80’s.
According to attorney Mitchell Garabedian, who represents 96 survivors of sexual abuse within the Diocese of Rochester, there are at least 475 total sexual abuse claims against the diocese. He says some of those claims are decades old, and to his knowledge, so far none of them have been resolved.
"It's important to note that over time memories fade,” Garabedian said. “Documents disappear, evidence grows stale, and that's to the benefit of the defendants."
In addition to using bankruptcy as a way to buy time, advocates say the diocese is withholding important documents regarding clergy members and sexual abuse.
"We're calling on Bishop Matano to take the key that he has to those secret files, open them up, release everything, and allow victims to see what is going on and has gone on in this diocese," Hoatson said.
News10NBC reached out to the Diocese of Rochester for a comment, and this is what we received:
"The Diocese of Rochester has asked the U.S. Bankruptcy Court to approve a $35 million settlement agreement with certain underwriters at Lloyd’s London, London Market Insurers and Interstate Fire and Casualty Co., which are among the major insurers involved in our bankruptcy case. A hearing has been scheduled for July 9, 2021.
We believe this settlement, if approved, is a significant step forward in our goal of achieving a fair and equitable Reorganization Plan – the vast majority of which will be funded by our insurers – that will compensate the survivors of sexual abuse who have filed claims in our Chapter 11 case.
While the funding provided under this settlement is only a portion of the eventual “Survivors Fund” to be established to settle those claims, it is a significant and substantial one. The agreement seeks to overcome a halt in the mediation, and, if approved, will avoid further litigation between the Diocese and these specific insurers – legal proceedings that would be quite costly, reduce available funds for survivors and perhaps delay by years the conclusion of this process.
We hope for the Court’s approval and we pray this settlement will be a catalyst for fruitful dialogue and progress in negotiations among the remaining concerned parties in the case. We are committed to all reasonable efforts to bring this Chapter 11 case to a conclusion for the sake of survivors and the continued mission of the Diocese of Rochester.
The Diocese has acted in good faith over the course of multiple mediation sessions and is committed to continuing those good faith negotiations with its insurers and the Creditors Committee. The Diocese believes that continued dialogue and negotiation among the Diocese, its insurers and the Creditors Committee that is guided by reasonable and realistic expectations on the part of all concerned and a dedication to swift and just resolution for survivors is the best and proper course to benefit survivors.
As we stated when we filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2019, the Diocese’s goal is to bring this matter to a conclusion as soon as possible in order to continue the work of healing and reconciliation, both for survivors and our diocesan family."
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