Priests Appeal Diocese's Bankruptcy Plan

By Beth Miller
News Journal
August 12, 2011|newswell|text|Home|s

Two priests removed from ministry in the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington because of sexual abuse allegations the late Bishop Michael Saltarelli said were "admitted, corroborated or otherwise substantiated" have appealed the diocese's court-approved bankruptcy plan because it excludes them from the diocese's sustenance and health care benefits.

The Rev. Kenneth J. Martin and the Rev. Charles Wiggins, removed from ministry in 2001 and 2003, respectively, filed notice Thursday that they would appeal the plan to U.S. District Court. Thursday was the last day such appeals could be filed, according to Anthony Flynn, attorney for the diocese.

After almost two years of hearings and negotiations, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Sontchi had ordered the diocese to remove "sustenance" provisions for the priests from its Chapter 11 reorganization plan before he would approve it. The diocese did so and on July 28, reached final agreement with its creditors and won approval of its $77.4 million settlement with scores of abuse survivors with pending lawsuits.

Flynn said he did not believe the priests' appeals would jeopardize the settlement payment, due 60 days after the court order.

"It should have no impact on the plan going forward and the trust being funded in a timely way," Flynn said.

The diocese's insurers -- who are paying about $15.5 million of the settlement -- linked their payment to a final, non-appealable order, Flynn said. But sustenance payments were not part of the trust fund, so Flynn does not believe the insurers have an interest in delaying the process. Neither Martin nor Wiggins is eligible now for a diocese pension, Flynn said.

Attorneys for Martin and Wiggins did not return messages Thursday.

But Wilmington attorney Thomas Neuberger, whose firm represented the majority of abuse survivors, was indignant.

"It's shameless, and it shows how unrepentant these guys are," Neuberger said.

The diocese in 2009 asked the Vatican to remove the priestly faculties of all nine removed priests on its list, including Martin and Wiggins. Only two have been laicized to date -- Francis G. DeLuca and Edward Dudzinski.

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