Diocese of Buffalo Wants to Speed Up Bankruptcy Process at the Expense of Survivors

Catholic officials in Buffalo are once again trying to deny victims of clergy sexual abuse their day in court, this time by pleading with a federal judge to change the rules that have been established and to reduce the amount of time survivors have to file a claim. We hope that this attempt is rejected by the court and that Diocesan leaders are not able to weasel out of responsibility for the abuse and cover-ups perpetrated within their see.

According to the Buffalo News, Catholics officials are pleading indigence in bankruptcy court, arguing that they do not have the funds to continue operating programs and services while also paying settlements for the scores of clergy sexual abuse lawsuits that have been filed against them.  It is hard to take their arguments of poverty seriously. The attorney for the unsecured creditors, which includes survivors,  pointed out that “There hasn’t been a single diocese in this country that has had to shut down because of a Chapter 11 case, and that’s regardless of the length of the case, the contentiousness of the case and the cost of the case.” Moreover,  the diocese itself and one of its associated LLCs may have received as much as $1,320,000 in PPP loans, in addition to the vast swathes of property owned by the diocese. Catholic officials threaten to scale back programs like food banks and schools because they know it will tug at the heartstrings of people in the community, while ignoring their ability to sell off some of their vast assets to keep those programs afloat.

The simple fact is that no diocese in the country has ever shuttered from declaring bankruptcy and we do not expect this to happen in Buffalo. More to the point, we know that Catholic officials have found creative ways to hide assets and properties when going through bankruptcies in the past. It is hard to believe this same playbook is not being used in Buffalo.

It is also hard to sympathize with Diocesan leaders when the financial burden they are facing today is due to no one’s fault but their own. The Diocese of Buffalo could have chosen not to cover up claims of abuse and could have acted faster to remove abusive men from their positions. Their inaction has made the bed they lie in today and their complaints about lawsuits is simply another flavor of the victim-blaming culture that is endemic in the Catholic Church.

We hope that this motion is rejected and that survivors in New York will be able to take advantage of the full window afforded by the Child Victim’s Act. The people of New York have spoken and believe that these survivors deserve their day in court. We hope that this bankruptcy court will follow those wishes.

CONTACT: Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, zhiner@snapnetwork.org)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)


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