Advocacy groups for the survivors of clergy abuse are expressing new concerns over a growing trend among Catholic dioceses to file for bankruptcy to limit payouts to abused individuals. Since 2004, more than 20 dioceses filed for bankruptcy protection in the wake of clergy abuse lawsuits being filed against them. Using the bankruptcy process to settle clergy abuse claims can result in lower payout amounts with the added benefit of reducing publicity. Many fear bankruptcy is another way for the Catholic Church to cover the ongoing clergy sexual abuse crisis and cause further harm to abuse survivors.
Dioceses filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy will be subject to a settlement where a percentage of their assets will be divided among individuals with abuse allegations. Courts will set a fixed settlement amount. When the limited pool of money is exhausted, the diocese has no further obligation to pay any existing debtors, including abuse survivors who have pending legal claims. This allows the simultaneous settlement of many lawsuits. Bankruptcy courts will set a deadline for individuals who have a potential claim against a diocese to come forward to be part of the bankruptcy settlement. Under this type of pressure, survivors often accept smaller amounts rather than face uncertainty in filing a claim later.
Using bankruptcy as a means of settling survivor payouts also allows the Church to control assets used for settlement purposes. Prior to filing for Chapter 11 protection, many dioceses quietly transferred or reclassified existing assets to protect them from the bankruptcy court. According to some reports, the Catholic Church has protected over $2 billion in assets from bankruptcy courts in recent years. With less money available to settle individual clergy abuse claims, survivors are receiving smaller payouts.
By filing for bankruptcy, dioceses can silence the stories of abuse survivors. Any payments to survivors become part of a larger mass settlement, which rarely sees the media scrutiny of separate civil cases filed against individual sex abusers. It is vital that survivors seek the counsel of an experienced clergy abuse lawyer to obtain the full compensation they rightfully deserve.
Dealing with the aftermath of clergy sexual abuse can take a financial toll on its survivors. By filing a civil lawsuit against the parties responsible for the abuse, survivors can obtain monetary compensation. Survivors are often entitled to damages for the costs of medical treatment, psychological counseling, lost wages, and pain and suffering.
If you suffered clergy abuse, the Metuchen clergy abuse lawyers at Williams Cedar assist survivors and their families in obtaining maximum compensation. Located in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we proudly serve clergy abuse survivors and their families throughout New Jersey. To schedule a free consultation, call us today at 856-470-9777 or contact us online.