Diocese of Camden Declares Bankruptcy, SNAP Responds
A day after one of the nation’s largest catholic dioceses declared bankruptcy, one of New Jersey’s has followed suit. We believe that this movie is more about protecting church secrets than it is about a lack of assets and we hope that parishioners and the public will demand better of their church leaders.
The Diocese of Camden is choosing to declare bankruptcy rather than allow survivors of clergy sexual abuse to have their day in court. After calling on victims to come forward to the diocesan reconciliation plan and tell church officials of their abuse, Bishop Sullivan has betrayed that trust, learning all the information about the scope of clergy abuse in his diocese as he could before shutting down the pathways survivors had towards telling their story publicly. Church officials in Camden have made it clear that healing for survivors and prevention of future abuse is not his priority; keeping secrets is.
Bankruptcy will help the Diocese of Camden keep information about predators and enablers hidden because it freezes the discovery of plaintiffs suing the diocese thanks to New Jersey’s Child Victims Act. This move will keep church officials from having to testify under oath and removes the obligation of defendants to honestly answer written questions called "interrogatories." In short, by declaring bankruptcy, church officials in Camden can refuse to take responsibility for abuse and cover-ups that occurred within under their watch.
Like any business, the Diocese of Camden has insurance. Similarly, it is hard to take the diocese’s claim of poverty seriously when, two years ago, the annual Bishops appeal raised more than $30 million. Anyone who has watched the way dioceses around the country have manipulated bankruptcy court despite access to significant assets can recognize the same tactics in Camden.
This is not about the cost of these cases. It is simply about keeping secrets, secret. We hope parishioners and the public in Camden will join with us in voicing outrage over these legal tactics and demand that their church leaders commit to the transparency they promised so long ago.
(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)