New York Catholic diocese goes bankrupt over sex abuse lawsuits
A Roman Catholic diocese on Long Island, a suburb of New York City, one of the largest in the United States, has filed for bankruptcy over the cost of lawsuits filed by sexual abuse victims, compounded by COVID-19 pandemic economic losses.
The Diocese of Rockville Centre on Thursday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. It is the eighth largest diocese or archdiocese in the US serving more than 1.4 million Catholics on Long Island.
More than 200 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by clergy members have been filed against the diocese since the 2019 passage of New York's Child Victims Act, which suspended the statute of limitations to allow sex abuse victims to pursue decades-old allegations of abuse against clergy members, teachers and other adults.
“What became clear was that the diocese was not going to be able to continue to carry out its spiritual, charitable and educational missions if it were to continue to shoulder the increasingly heavy burden of litigation expenses associated with these cases,” Bishop John Barres said in a video posted on the diocese website.
“The financial burden of the litigation has been severe and only compounded by the COVID-19 pandemic,” Barres said. “Our goal is to make sure that all clergy sexual abuse survivors, and not just a few who were the first to file lawsuits, are afforded just and equitable compensation.”
The Catholic church abuse crisis exploded onto the international stage in 2002 when the Boston Globe newspaper revealed priests had sexually abused children for decades and church leaders had covered it up.
Patterns of widespread abuse of children have since been reported across the United States and around the world.