Committee gives Diocese of Rockville Centre options to pay alleged victims of clergy sex abuse

News 12 [The Bronx NY]

January 19, 2023

There is a new effort for the Diocese of Rockville Centre to pay alleged victims of clergy sex abuse.

Approximately 600 people filed claims through the Child Victims Act and are still waiting to be paid.

Everything was put on hold when the Diocese of Rockville Centre filed for bankruptcy in October 2020.

A new committee made up of sex abuse survivors sent the diocese two different options to reorganize its bankruptcy and continue the process.

One option would include the individual parishes, the other would not.

Lawyers for the victims say whichever option the diocese chooses it would allow all parties to put the sex abuse scandal behind them.

“Now is really a time to sit down, either with a mediator or with a judge to try to ultimately hammer out a plan that is acceptable to both the diocese and the survivors so there can be a timely exit from this procedure,” says James Marsh.

Richard Tollner is one of those survivors.

He says he was sexually abused by priests when he was a child in Catholic school.

“When you think about what they’ve gone through and the years of waiting and start this, these Catholic children who were sexually abused are feeling revictimized,” Tollner says.

The committee, which includes Tollner, says the church has not made a reasonable offer and has not responded to them in over 70 days.

The survivors have accused the church of spending tens of millions of dollars on the bankruptcy, which is money that could have gone to them.

In a statement, a spokesperson for the Diocese of Rockville Centre says “The diocese is continuing to work in good faith towards a resolution of abuse claims, including those claims against parishes, in a way that lawfully, equitably and fairly compensates survivors and allows the church to continue her essential mission. The unfortunate decision on the part of the Unsecured Creditors Committee to choose the path of litigation consumes resources that could otherwise be available to survivors.”

The Rockville Centre church can also submit its own plan, but a majority of the victims would need to approve the plan for the bankruptcy to end and the payouts to begin.

The settlement presented on Thursday calls from $450 million in payments from the diocese as as entities it owns like schools, cemeteries, seminaries and the individual parishes. The matter will go back to the courts for consideration if no deal is reached