|Del. Diocese Seeks to Continue Paying Benefits to Pedophile Priests
By Randall Chase
November 28, 2009
WILMINGTON, Del. — The Catholic Diocese of Wilmington is obligated to pay retirement benefits to six priests who are confirmed pedophiles, church officials argued in a bankruptcy court filing seeking permission to keep making the payments.
After filing for Chapter 11 protection, the diocese agreed not to make payments to priests accused of sexual abuse without court approval. That agreement was made after objections were raised by attorneys for alleged abuse victims who now sit on a creditors committee.
In a filing submitted to the court recently, attorneys for the diocese now seek authorization to provide pensions, housing costs and medical coverage to six confirmed child abusers. They cited an obligation to care for retired clergy, including priests dismissed from public ministry and facing laicization, or defrocking.
The motion also seeks permission to keep paying benefits to another priest who has been accused of sex abuse, though the claims have not been substantiated. He still has authority to serve as a priest.
The diocese argues that pension payments would not be taken from funds that might be used to pay creditors.
Officials with the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, could not recall a similar motion in the six other bankruptcies involving Catholic dioceses in the U.S. The group also noted that the Wilmington diocese is paying a public relations firm a minimum of $100,000 for bankruptcy-related work.
The diocese wants to continue paying medical coverage for former priest Francis DeLuca, 80, who was removed from public ministry in 1993 and defrocked last year after serving a jail term in New York for repeatedly abusing his grandnephew.
The diocese said it has provided DeLuca "charity" since he was defrocked in the form of a $1,000 monthly allowance and medical coverage. The allowance has been terminated, but the diocese still wants to provide medical coverage.
According to the court filing, 29 retired diocesan priests receive pensions at a cost of about $55,000 per month, and retired priests ineligible for the pension plan are provided "sustenance."
Among the priests receiving pension and health benefits are John Sarros and Douglas Dempster, both of whom were identified by the diocese in 2006 as having substantiated abuse allegations against them. The diocese also pays about $4,000 a month to house Sarros in an assisted-living home.
The three other priests with substantiated abuse allegations — Joseph McGovern, Charles Wiggins, and Kenneth Martin — have received cash payments and medical coverage.
The cash payments have been halted until they prove financial need, but the diocese wants to continue providing medical coverage.
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