Archdiocese, abuse survivors get more time to settle differences

WBAL-TV, NBC-11 [Baltimore MD]

November 6, 2023

By David Collins

Church sex abuse survivors seek 2-year deadline to file claims

A federal judge granted lawyers some time to work out differences over the Archdiocese of Baltimore’s bankruptcy filing before heading back to court.

Abuse survivors want to extend the deadline to file a claim and they want to know what church entities are covered by insurance. They’re also seeking more information regarding church assets.

“They shouldn’t be allowed to define how people recover. They have defined what we had to bear for years. It’s our turn to say to them, ‘This is what we want you to bear,'” said Frank Schindler, a church sex abuse survivor.

Church sex abuse survivors left Monday’s bankruptcy court hearing feeling encouraged that negotiations will continue over motions they consider unfair that were filed by the archdiocese, especially the Feb. 24 deadline that survivors must file a claim. Survivors seek a two-year deadline.

“Maybe this is the beginning of the end,” Schindler said.

“There are a lot of survivors out there who have not yet come forward, and we don’t want to put pressure on them. That’s why the Child Victims Act took away the statute of limitations to give them time to come forward,” said Teresa Lancaster, a church sex abuse survivor.

Last month, a federal bankruptcy judge issued an interim injunction on lawsuits against entities that are covered by archdiocese insurance plans. On Monday, survivors learned discussions are still underway to lift the veil of secrecy of who’s covered and how much assets they have.

Archdiocese, abuse survivors to work on settling differences

“We expect this to be a significant point. Now, the archdiocese says they will agree to provide all of the information on the property transfers,” Lancaster said. “There have been property transfers within the parishes and the churches. Technically, they didn’t file for bankruptcy. They’ve got them set up as LLCs. They want to separate them from the archdiocese, and they want to protect them. It’s just not right because they are part of the archdiocese.”

Archdiocese lawyers previously told the court that if schools and parishes want that protection, they will have to contribute to settlement funds.

Another point of contention surrounds the archdiocese’s attempts to bar survivors who have previously settled claims.

“To ban these claims to such survivors is ludicrous. These settlements were based on deception and misrepresentation,” Lancaster said.

The judge said she wants abuse survivors to be heard in court. David Lorenz, the director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is demanding Archbishop William Lori be ordered to sit in the courtroom and listen.

“He has to hear those stories, not in his private office, where you go up there intimidated by the trappings of the archbishop, where you come to a courtroom and Archbishop Lori has to hear the stories,” Lorenz said. “If a survivor wants Archbishop Lori in that courtroom, he should have to be there, or some church official.”

Through court testimony, the archdiocese claimed those on its abuse list are no longer on the payroll. Abuse survivors point out the attorney general’s report has a longer list.

“What I want to know is are those other 30-40 people, plus the five officials who enabled, are they being paid? And, are they being paid from the money that should be going to survivors?” Lorenz said.

Archdiocese lawyers told the judge they have made 5,000 pages of insurance coverage information available, dating back to the 1960s.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore sent a statement to 11 News late Monday afternoon, saying: “Today’s court hearing indicates that all the parties involved want this process to proceed in a timely manner, with transparency and collaboration. All of us want to ensure that victim-survivors can be compensated, and we sincerely hope that can be done.”

The judge said if a problem arises in the discussions, she will call a status hearing. Otherwise, the next court date is Dec. 4.