Second US Catholic Diocese Bankrupt after Child Sex Scandals

KGUN [Tucson AZ]
September 20, 2004

The US Catholic Diocese of Tucson became the second in the country to file for bankruptcy Monday after being hit by a wave of lawsuits and settlements linked to priestly child abuse.

In filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Bishop Gerald Kicanas insisted that the move was not aimed at escaping financial responsibility and issued a heartfelt apology to victims of sex abuse by priests.

"Our diocese submits the reorganization case and the reorganization plan with the belief that this represents the best opportunity for healing and for the just and fair compensation of those who suffered sexual abuse by workers for the Church in our diocese," he said in a letter to parishioners.

He said the move would protect both sex abuse victims who have already come forward since the scandal broke in the US Roman Catholic church in early 2002, and those who have not yet done so.

In a separate letter to sex crime victims, the bishop said he was sorry for the ordeals they suffered and

reassured them that seeking bankruptcy protection was not a means of avoiding paying damages to victims.

"I want you to know that I have not taken this step to avoid responsibility for what happened to you or to hide anything," the bishop wrote.

"I truly see the reorganization process and the reorganization plan that we have submitted as the only and best way that the diocese can address its responsibility to you, can continue to meet its commitment to institute programs to prevent abuse."

The diocese in the western state of Arizona has been faced with a flurry of lawsuits from alleged victims, which the bishop said earlier were draining what remained of its resources.

In 2002, the Tucson diocese reached a settlement with 10 men who alleged that priests molested them from the 1960s through the 1980s. Reports said the settlement amount was as high as 16 million dollars.

Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection enables insolvent corporations, partnerships and others to continue daily operations while developing a plan to repay their debt. Major business decisions would need to be approved by the bankruptcy court.

The bishop told victims in his letter that he recognized their anger, hurt and "your sense of betrayal" following their abuse.

"This has touched my heart and left me struggling to know how best to help you heal. As the diocese enters the process of reorganization, again I think of you with concern and with a longing to restore your trust and heal your hurt," he said.

"To each of you I extend my deepest personal sorrow, and I communicate to you the sorrow of all the people of the Church of the diocese of Tucson."


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