PINELLAS PARK (FL)
Legal Examiner – Saunders and Walker Attorney Blog
October 3, 2020
By Joseph H. Saunders
In a widely anticipated move, the Diocese of Rockville Centre has filed for federal bankruptcy protection. In their announcement yesterday, diocesan officials blamed a surge of priest abuse lawsuits and COVID-19 for the bankruptcy filing. What wasn’t mentioned concerns the fact that a bankruptcy filing allows the Diocese of Rockville Centre to put a hold on the lawsuits, reduce their financial obligations to survivors of sexual abuse, and, most importantly, allows the Diocese to maintain secrecy about how they handled the priest abuse crisis.
While not the largest diocese in the state of New York, Rockville Centre rivals Buffalo in terms of corruption and the poor manner in which survivors have been treated. Less than two decades ago, the Diocese was the subject of a grand jury investigation for its handling of the sexual abuse of minors. In the Grand Jury Report, the jurors blasted the Diocese for the manner in which they had handled the situation. Here is an excerpt from their closing remarks:
“Priests assigned to and working in the Diocese of Rockville Centre committed criminal acts in violation of New York State Penal Law Article 130, Sex Offenses, and other statutes designed to protect the health, safety and welfare of children. These criminal acts included, but were not limited to, Rape, Sodomy, Sexual Abuse, Endangering the Welfare of a Child and Use of a Child in a Sexual Performance. Not one priest in the Diocese who knew about these criminal acts reported them to any law enforcement agency. Frequently, because of the nature of child sexual abuse the victims of this criminal activity do not and did not, in these cases, disclose it until they were adults. This was almost always after the statute of limitations for the criminal prosecution of these crimes had lapsed. Even when offender priests were sent to an out of state Diocese the tolling provisions of the New York State Criminal Procedure Law did not effectively work to allow a criminal prosecution. The limitations contained therein precluded the prosecution of offenders living out of the state. The Grand Jury concludes that officials in the Diocese failed in their responsibility to protect children. They ignored credible complaints about the sexually abusive behaviors of priests. They failed to act on obvious warning signs of sexual abuse including instances where they were aware that priests had children in their private rooms in the rectory overnight, that priests were drinking alcohol with underage children and exposing them to pornography. Even where a priest disclosed sexually abusive behavior with children officials failed to act to remove him from ministry.”
Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.