Long Island Diocese Files for Bankruptcy after Surge of Sex-abuse Lawsuits

By Soma Biswas
Wall Street Journal
October 1, 2020

A New York law lifting the statute of limitations for sex-abuse victims spurred litigation against the Diocese of Rockville Centre

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rockville Centre in New York’s Long Island filed for bankruptcy under the weight of more than 200 lawsuits from victims of sexual misconduct, becoming the largest diocese to seek chapter 11 protection in the U.S. over allegations of abuse by clergy.

The diocese, which covers nearly all of Long Island’s two counties, Suffolk and Nassau, filed for chapter 11 protection Wednesday in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New York, with the aim of working out settlements with victims of clergy sexual abuse after New York lifted the statute of limitations for survivors.

The Diocese of Rockville Centre covers 1.4 million Catholics, according to court papers.

The diocese said lawsuits mounted after a state law temporarily lifted the civil statute of limitations on child sexual abuse. The Child Victims Act, which came into effect last year, allows those alleging they were sexually abused as children to sue, no matter when the misconduct occurred.

Bankruptcy has been a common strategy since the early 2000s for religious groups and other organizations such as the Boy Scouts of America to manage the financial fallout from sexual-abuse lawsuits.

In a videotaped interview, Bishop John Barres said the Diocese of Rockville Centre “would not be able to carry out the mission...if it were to continue to shoulder the heavy burden of litigation expenses associated with these cases.”

Rockville Centre joins a list of more than 20 Catholic dioceses to seek bankruptcy protection since 2004, when a wave of sexual-abuse allegations against the church began. It is the fourth New York diocese—after Syracuse, Rochester and Buffalo—to file for protection from creditors since the Child Victims Act went into effect.








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