Philadelphia Inquirer [Philadelphia PA]
October 26, 2021
By Ellie Rushing
Attorneys for the survivors say the number is still too low, and that they were excluded from the settlement discussions between the diocese and its insurers.
The bankrupt Roman Catholic Diocese of Camden has offered $53 million for survivors of clergy sexual abuse — more than half of which is being paid by its insurers.
But attorneys for the survivors say the number isn’t adequate, and say they were excluded from the settlement discussions between the diocese and its insurers.
Earlier this month, the diocese asked a federal judge to approve a bankruptcy reorganization plan that would create a $26 million fund for at least320 survivors.
On Tuesday, the diocese said in a news release that after a 10-hour negotiation with a court-appointed mediator last week, its insurers have agreed to pay $27 million toward the fund, bringing the total offered to up to $53 million, or average payments of about $165,625.
The diocese will amend its plan and resubmit it to the judge.
“We continue to believe that the funding proposed by the diocese … is inadequate, and this contribution from insurers is also inadequate,” said Jeffrey D. Prol, vice chair of the bankruptcy and restructuring department at Lowenstein Sandler LLP, which represents the official committee of survivor claimants.
Prol said the law firm had been involved in the mediation between the diocese and insurers, and this proposal was made outside of their knowledge.
“We haven’t consented or agreed to it in any way,” he said.
It’s not unusual for insurance companies to help pay for settlements to abuse survivors.
“What is unusual is the diocese and insurers attempting to do an end-run around on the survivor claimants,” Prol said.
Richard Trenk, the diocese’s bankruptcy lawyer, said the committee was aware of the settlement discussion, and has never been excluded.
The diocese, which serves about 486,000 Catholics in Camden, Gloucester, Cumberland, Salem, Cape May, and Atlantic Counties, said in a statement that the survivor committee “has not yet made a bona fide demand” for a settlement.
“Name-calling is not negotiating,” said diocesan lead attorney Richard D. Trenk of Trenk Isabel P.C. “There is now $53 million available for survivors. … Everyone has had an opportunity to review the claims and all parties understand the extent of claims, the need to get survivors settlement funds, and the need for the diocese, parishes, and other Catholic entities to move forward in order to serve the faithful and the greater community.”
Prol filed a letter Tuesday to the judge on the case, Jerrold N. Poslusny, claiming the diocese’s announcement violates the mediation confidentiality and misrepresents them.
“Trust is the key component of a successful mediation, and trust is what the Diocese has [once again] destroyed,” he wrote.
Ellie Rushing I cover breaking news, as well as U.S. Postal Service operations.