The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Press Statement
For immediate release: Monday, October 19, 2009
Response to Diocese of Wilmington filing for Bankruptcy
Statement by Barbara Dorris, SNAP Outreach Director, 314 862 7688
Citizens of Delaware, especially the Catholic ones, should be wary about the motives of Bishop Malooly in filing for bankruptcy. It seems that he wants to keep the truth hidden regarding how much diocesan officials knew and how little they did to protect the children.
It is highly suspicious that the bankruptcy is filed on the eve of the trial that would have allowed the truth to be exposed and diocesan officials to be cross examined under oath where they would have had difficulty explaining why the children were not protected instead of the predators.
Clearly the bishop has lots of options other than filing for bankruptcy. He could seek a bank loan, seek a church loan, seek a government-backed loan, sue recalcitrant insurers, settle insured cases. Instead he chose to file and to keep victims from getting their day in court and from having the truth exposed.
We ask that Bishop Malooly:
While Malooly claims he’s protecting church assets we believe he is merely protecting his reputation and the reputations of his staff and predecessors.
If money was indeed, the issue, Malooly had many options he never pursued.
Instead, he took the self-serving, coward’s way out.
Instead of moving his diocese forward, he’s holding it back.
What happens now? Now, through the well-crafted words and careful-honed PR moves, Malooly claims this is about wanting all victims to be treated equally, while playing legal hardball and actually treating all victims harshly.
He’ll spend literally millions of hard-earned and generously-given donations from decent Catholics on high-priced lawyers who will protect him and his diocese's secrets.
And this will drag on for months or years, postponing healing, disclosure, openness, and protection.
Malooly talks of caring for the ‘church’s mission’ (not, interestingly, the church’s children). But he obviously doesn’t consider protecting the innocent, healing the wounded and disclosing the truth part of his church’s ‘mission.’
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We've been around since 1988 and have more than 9,000 members across the country. Despite the word "priest" in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Peter Isely (414-429-7259) Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747)
Catholic Diocese of Wilmington files bankruptcy
The Associated Press
ANNAPOLIS, Md. - Delaware's Catholic Diocese of Wilmington filed for federal bankruptcy protection on Sunday night, on the eve of a civil trial in a high-profile sex abuse case against the diocese and a former priest.
The bankruptcy filing automatically delays the case in Kent County Superior Court, the first of eight consecutive abuse trials scheduled in Delaware.
"This is a painful decision, one that I had hoped and prayed I would never have to make," said the Rev. W. Francis Malooly, the bishop of the diocese, on the diocese's Web site.
Malooly said the decision was made "after careful consideration and after consultation with my close advisers and counselors" and that believed "we have no other choice." He said "filing for Chapter 11 offers the best opportunity, given finite resources, to provide the fairest possible treatment of all victims of sexual abuse by priests of our Diocese."
"Our hope is that Chapter 11 proceedings will enable us to fairly compensate all victims through a single process established by the Bankruptcy Court," Malooly said.
The diocese covers Delaware and the Eastern Shore of Maryland and serves about 230,000 Catholics. It is the seventh U.S. diocese to file for bankruptcy since allegations erupting seven years ago against Catholic clergy in Boston.
Monday's case would have been the first to come to trial under a Delaware law that created a two-year "lookback" window that allowed claims of abuse to be brought regardless of whether the statute of limitations had expired. More than 100 lawsuits were filed before the period ended this summer, with four being settled.
Thomas Neuberger, an attorney representing 88 alleged victims, described the bankruptcy filing as a "desperate effort to hide the truth from the public and conceal the thousands of pages of scandalous documents" from being made public in court.
"This filing is the latest, sad chapter in the diocese's decades long 'cover-up' of these despicable crimes, to maintain the secrecy surrounding its responsibility and complicity in the sexual abuse of hundreds of Catholic children," Neuberger said in a statement.
Civil liability is the only recourse for victims of abuse that happened long ago because the U.S. Supreme Court has said states cannot change the statute of limitations for criminal cases.
Neuberger said the diocese's action may mean some sick and aging victims , some who claim they were abused when they were as young as 8 , could die before getting their day in court.
Attorneys negotiated throughout Sunday trying to reach a settlement, but couldn't.
The Diocese of Wilmington is the seventh U.S. Catholic diocese to seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection since the church abuse scandal erupted seven years ago in the Archdiocese of Boston. Dioceses in Davenport, Iowa; Fairbanks, Alaska; Portland, Ore.; San Diego; Spokane, Wash., and Tucson, Ariz., also sought bankruptcy protection. The San Diego case was dismissed.
Neuberger said he would make court filings in Delaware to "meet this fraudulent tactic with the full and immediate force of the law." He also vowed to seek out all assets of the diocese and its parishes.
More than 20 Delaware plaintiffs have filed lawsuits against former priest Francis DeLuca. DeLuca served for 35 years but was defrocked last summer after having been jailed in 2007 in New York for repeatedly molesting his grandnephew.
Lawsuits filed by DeLuca's alleged victims were scheduled for trial in October, the first on Monday.
Barbara Blaine, president of the advocacy group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said the church has all the resources it needs to take care of victims, and she described the bankruptcy filing as a way of hiding the truth.
"The bottom line is that the bishop doesn't want the truth to be exposed," Blaine said.
The diocese has paid more than $6.2 million since 2002 to settle sexual abuse lawsuits. Like others around the country, it also has paid settlements to alleged victims who did not file lawsuits.
An annual report filed earlier this year by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that the church has paid more than $2.6 billion in settlements and related expenses since 1950.
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests