Clergy Abuse in Delaware: Diocese's Bankruptcy Plan Could Be Filed Soon

News Journal
September 23, 2010

The Catholic Diocese of Wilmington this week is expected to file its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization plan. This follows the apparent breakdown of mediation with victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Attorneys representing 98 victims of childhood sexual abuse already have announced a press conference to denounce the plan, which will outline how the diocese will distribute assets to creditors, including victims.

The diocese filed for bankruptcy in October -- on the eve of what would have been the first state civil trial alleging sexual abuse by a priest under the Delaware Child Victims Act.

The filing stayed cases, but in August, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Christopher Sontchi ruled that seven civil lawsuits accusing the former Rev. Francis DeLuca of sexual abuse would be allowed to go to trial this fall. The diocese had argued that allowing the cases -- which all name Catholic parishes in Delaware as defendants -- to go forward would hinder discussions to settle the 157 outstanding legal claims alleging sexual abuse by priests in Delaware.

According to a transcript of a Sept. 3 bankruptcy court hearing, Robert Jacobs, an attorney representing the Unofficial Committee of Abuse Survivors, said discussions between diocese and victims' attorneys was at an impasse: "We think the mediation is over. ... We think that this is a meaningless endeavor."

The Wilmington-based Neuberger Firm and Jacobs & Crumplar, who represent the Unofficial Committee of Abuse Survivors, announced Wednesday that they will host a press conference within two hours of the plan's release. Attorneys would not disclose plan details but noted they had said in court that they expect it to be "adverse to survivors in every way they can conceive."

Sontchi will have to approve any plan.

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