Diocese of Rockville Centre Declares Bankruptcy
Another Catholic diocese in New York is choosing to declare bankruptcy. This is a move designed less to protect assets and more to protect secrets and prevent the public from getting the full truth about the scope of clergy abuse within its borders.
The bankruptcy of the Diocese of Rockville Centre was inevitable due to the amount of lawsuits filed against it and given the Church’s history of choosing to suppress its files and keep things hidden. Bankruptcy freezes the discovery of plaintiffs suing it, and in so doing, limits the damage of testimony under oath and the obligation of defendants to honestly answer written questions called "interrogatories." In short, by declaring bankruptcy, church officials in Rockville Centre can refuse to take responsibility for abuse and cover-ups that occurred within under their watch.
Secrecy is important to church officials in Rockville Centre: to date, they are the only diocese in New York that has refused to release a list of “credibly” accused abusers. Despite calls from the public for transparency, Bishop John Barres and his colleagues have steadfastly refused to give their community any information about clergy abuse that was not forced out of them by secular officials.
And then there is the money. Time and again, bishops move money in order to keep it. For example, in Milwaukee, then-Bishop Dolan transferred more than $50 million to a cemetery fund in order to keep the assets hidden. Or, when the Archdiocese of St. Paul – Minneapolis went into bankruptcy, church officials there fought to use especially low valuations on church property. The Diocese of San Diego even left property under the names of its donors in an attempt to keep it away from the bankruptcy court. It took activists and private investigators to find that property and force it to be considered. An Oakland activist undertook a privately funded appraisal of property in that diocese and found a debt-free diocese with nearly $2 billion in assets. Indeed, the year after funding $56 million in settlements, the church built a $200 million cathedral without declaring bankruptcy. Based on history, it is clear that church officials use bankruptcy court not because of indigence, but out of fear.
We call on Governor Andrew Cuomo to intervene in each of these New York Catholic church bankruptcies in any way that he can. We also call on A.G. Letitia James to use the powers of her office, including subpoena power, to get to the answers and secrets that church officials are trying to keep secret by moving to bankruptcy court. It is through secular officials like these that the public will learn the truth, so we hope that they will intervene and investigate as soon as possible.
(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)