March 14, 2021
By Don Cazentre
Anyone who wants to file a claim seeking damages for clergy sex abuse against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Syracuse must do so by midnight on April 15.
The diocese issued a reminder of that deadline, known as the “bar date,” in a news release Sunday. The deadline was initially set in November 2020 by U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Margaret Cangilos- Ruiz.
The diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the Northern District of New York in June 2020. That move immediately shifted all abuse claims from state court to bankruptcy court.
At the time, there were more than 100 claims of abuse against the Syracuse diocese. The bankruptcy filing came just days after 38 people filed Child Victims Act lawsuits against the church.
Under the judge’s order, those with claims must file them by April 15 or risk losing their rights as potential creditors to vote in the diocese’s financial reorganization and any shares in the settlement made to victims.
Information on the case and how to file a claim is available online, or by calling (855) 329-4244.
Syracuse Bishop Douglas Lucia said at the time of the bankruptcy filing that it was intended to ensure that all potential victims could get something for their pain while also making sure that the diocese would not be destroyed by the onslaught of claims. Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows the diocese to operate while reorganizing its finances.
“I feel it is the only way we can address the victims’ claims in a fair and equitable manner,” Lucia said at the time of the bankruptcy filing.
In a letter to parishioners dated June 19, 2020, Lucia wrote: “It is my hope that during this process of reorganization and following its completion, we will continue to pray for the healing of those who had been harmed during this very dark chapter of the Church. As your Bishop, I must again, apologize for these heinous acts and ask you all to join me in our diocesan commitment that these acts will never take place again.”
Lucia became Syracuse bishop in 2019.
The diocese has also established what it calls a “Safe Environment” plan in response to the abuse allegations.
Many other Catholic dioceses in the United States, including Buffalo and Rochester, have also filed for bankruptcy in the wake of the sex abuse scandal.
Jeff Anderson, a lawyer whose firm represents 50 plaintiffs suing the Syracuse Diocese, told syracuse.com last year be believed the bankruptcy filing was a way for the church to hide the systemic abuse and cover-ups.
“It gives them the opportunity to stop us and the survivors from excavating their secrets, their history, their practices,” Anderson said.