|While Feigning ‘Poverty,’ Catholic Bishop Pays Pr Firm $100,000+
November 20, 2009
He also takes legal action to make sure he can keep paying predators
But church official takes no steps to ensure similar payments to victims
No other diocese in Chapter 11 process has ever done this, SNAP believes
Self help group blasts top cleric for “self-serving and cold-hearted priorities”
In new court filings, Delaware’s Catholic bishop is asking a bankruptcy judge to guarantee that he can keep paying priests, including those who’ve been credibly accused of molesting kids, but seeking no guarantees about counseling for abuse victims. He is also hiring, at a minimum cost of $100,000, a high profile California public relations firm that was also used by the scandal-plagued Los Angeles archdiocese.
Leaders of a support group for clergy sex abuse victims decried both moves.
"It's morally wrong for a church official to cry poverty and then pay six figures to a PR firm. And it's morally wrong for a church official to put helping child predators ahead of helping child victims," said Barbara Dorris of St. Louis. She’s the national outreach director for a self help organization called SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.
“I suppose we should be grateful for this legal maneuver, because at least the bishop is revealing his priorities, however self-centered and hurtful they are,” said David Clohessy, SNAP’s national director.
Wilmington Catholic officials will claim, Clohessy says, that the payments for priest are largely required by diocesan pension agreements. But he maintains that none of the six other dioceses have sought bankruptcy protection filed similar motions nor had any difficulty paying their staffs throughout the Chapter 11 process.
“And if this move is just about a bishop being ‘extra cautious,’ he should be even more cautious about making sure he can keep paying desperately needed therapy for deeply wounded adults who were raped and sodomized as children by Delaware priests, nuns, brothers, seminarians and other church employees,” Clohessy said.
The LA public relations company is called Sitrick. A two page contract signed by a Wilmington chancery office official was recently filed by the bankruptcy court.
“This diocese, like virtually every Catholic diocese across the country, already has its own internal public relations department,” said Dorris. “Should Catholics’ hard-earned donations be spent on ‘spinning’ a bishop’s unilateral, expensive, and selfish decision to hide behind Chapter 11 laws so that clergy sex crimes and cover ups could remained covered up?”
SNAP maintains that Catholic authorities seek bankruptcy protection to save their own reputations, rather than to save church assets. The group says that in each instances, church officials went into Chapter 11 on the eve of potentially embarrassing civil trials at which bishops and other high ranking diocesan employees would have been forced to answer tough questions in open court about how they ignored or concealed child sex crimes.
“Church bankruptcies are about saving the bishop’s behind, not saving the church’s coffers,” Clohessy said. “Bishops are terrified of testifying or being deposed, and will do almost anything to prevent having to disclose, under oath, how much they knew about and how little they did about child molesting clerics.”
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