The Pennsylvania Catholic diocese of Harrisburg is the latest American diocese forced to declare bankruptcy as it faces new financial pressures from the increase of clergy abuse cases. According to the bankruptcy filing, the diocese could be facing almost $100 million in debt. Harrisburg becomes the first Catholic diocese in Pennsylvania to seek bankruptcy protection. More than 20 Catholic dioceses in other states have filed for bankruptcy within the last few years.
Following the 2018 Pennsylvania grand jury report implicating hundreds of Catholic priests in allegations of sexual misconduct, the Harrisburg diocese began making payouts to compensate abuse survivors. The diocese is home to 89 parishes, with close to 100 priests serving at these locations. According to the bankruptcy filing, these payouts, believed to total over $12 million, have placed a financial burden on the diocese.
If it becomes easier for survivors to file previously time-barred lawsuits in Pennsylvania, the diocese claims it will be unable to financially shoulder the anticipated influx of new clergy abuse suits. Currently, there are at least five pending clergy abuse lawsuits against the Harrisburg diocese, even with the current outdated statute of limitations.
By filing for bankruptcy, the diocese hopes to freeze all current pending litigation. In theory, the Bankruptcy Court will assist the diocese in forming a reorganization plan meant to ensure equitable compensation for all existing creditors, including abuse survivors. Any money previously transferred by the diocese into charitable trusts and the priest pension fund will remain outside bankruptcy proceedings. This has led to major criticism by survivor advocacy groups, who believe the Church may be hiding assets outside the reach of survivors.
Individuals abused by a trusted clergy member often face years of suffering due to the trauma they experienced as children. By filing a civil lawsuit against those parties responsible for the abuse, including the diocesan officials who covered up the abuse, survivors can obtain financial compensation, including compensation for their pain and suffering. The first step is to contact an experienced Camden clergy abuse lawyer to further discuss potential claims.
If you or a loved one experienced clergy sexual abuse, you are not alone. The experienced Camden clergy abuse lawyers at Williams Cedar help survivors who are seeking to hold their abusers accountable. With offices conveniently located in Philadelphia and Haddonfield, New Jersey, we proudly serve clergy abuse survivors and their families throughout New Jersey. To schedule a free consultation today, call us at 856-470-9777 or submit an online inquiry form.