Here's what happened when other Catholic Dioceses filed bankruptcy

By Berkeley Brean
September 13, 2019

[with video]

This weekend, hundreds of thousands of Catholics will go to Mass in the Rochester Diocese wondering what's going to happen to their church now that the diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. News10NBC is finding answers from a place that already went through this. 

For specific answers to your questions about the Diocese of Rochester's bankruptcy, scroll to the bottom of the story.

Starting in 2015, four dioceses in Minnesota filed for bankruptcy. The largest -- Minneapolis, St. Paul -- reached a settlement last year. So I contacted a former Rochester journalist and reporter at our sister station in Minnesota, Kevin Doran, to find out what happened. 

Doran and his KSTP news team covered the story of the Archdiocese of Minneapolis, St. Paul when it filed for bankruptcy and emerged three years later.

Kevin Doran, KSTP anchor, reporter: "The Church, the survivors, and the insurance companies worked out a formula that everybody could agree with."

The Archdiocese of Minneapolis, St. Paul settled with survivors for $210 million. The diocese told me that was divided between more than 400 victims and the minimum payout was $50,000. 

Doran: "The insurance companies are key here because that's where most of the money is coming from."

At a news conference on Thursday, the Rochester Diocese's bankruptcy lawyer said they're analyzing the Diocese's insurance. 

Stephen Donato, Attorney for Diocese of Rochester: "Until the New York law changed to allow lawsuits to be commenced on August 14, there really was no ability to seek insurance coverage because there was no legally viable claim."

Since August, the Rochester Catholic Diocese has been named in 46 lawsuits by 61 plaintiffs. In its filing in federal court Thursday it said it expects "many more."

Chief Investigative Reporter Berkeley Brean: "After the settlement, did the issue go away?"

Doran: "Oh no. And I'm speaking to you as a reporter and a practicing Catholic. It did not go away. The settlement, if anything, was the launching pad for a lot of talk and a lot of prayer about forgiveness and praying for survivors."

Brean: "What changes, if any, did you experience in the church because of these bankruptcies?"

Doran: "Other than a lot of prayers for the survivors and for healing, really nothing going to church week to week. There was not an extra financial burden. No asking for more money to help pay these bills. It was really all about the healing and moving forward."

In Minnesota, after the Archdiocese of Minneapolis, St. Paul filed for bankruptcy, three other dioceses did the same. On Friday The Buffalo News reported that the Diocese of Buffalo, which is facing three times as many lawsuits and has fewer assets than the Diocese of Rochester, is considering bankruptcy. 

If you have more questions about the Diocese of Rochester bankruptcy, click here to get to the diocese Q&A page and the letter written by Bishop Salvatore Matano to the faithful.



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