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Oh Great, another Catholic church declares bankruptcy to avoid paying for abuse damage

October 24, 2009
Bernini's stained glass window in St. Peter's ...
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Remember when I wrote about the Catholic church before, saying that they had gotten away with abuse by filing for bankruptcy?  Oh, you don’t?  Maybe I didn’t, but it happens so frequently right now that nobody knows for sure which diocese is being affected now.    A Catholic church diocese in Wilmington has declared bankruptcy after figuring out that they couldn’t pay the victims who had pressed charges against them, with trials starting over the next few months.

On our local front, we had offered to give seminars at the local churches to help parents protect their kids on the internet.  The Catholic diocese out of the Western Michigan segment stated that they already provided parents with notices about abuse and “didn’t have to do anything else.”  It was a telling reply.  Other churches have asked more questions about qualifications of the presenters, about costs for participants, which was about $10/person to cover copy costs and things of that nature.  What does the Catholic church do?  Says it doesn’t have to offer anything like this.

It’s a pretty telling statement considering that no one has to offer internet security presentations, but other churches would anyway.  I wondered, at the time, what other legal battles were going on, and now I know.  Other diocesan members don’t want to admit that anything might happen with them.  The local bishop in our area is pretty arrogant about the subject of children getting hurt on the local playground, again saying it had no obligation to “do anything different than the public schools,” even though 2 serous play-related concussions requiring hospital evaluation (see my latest on concussions in the NFL post) occurred at the school.  Thank goodness the Catholic church is basing all of of its decisions lately on what it “has to do” as opposed to helping others.

The diocese has paid more than $6.2 million since 2002 to settle claims of sexual abuse. The bankruptcy filing lists the diocese’s assets as being between $50 million and $100 million but said its estimated debt is between $100 million and $500 million. Lawsuit plaintiffs as well as banks and pensions were listed as creditors.

Other dioceses that have sought bankruptcy protection in abuse scandals are Davenport, Iowa; Fairbanks, Alaska; Portland, Ore.; San Diego; Spokane, Wash.; and Tucson, Ariz. The San Diego case was dismissed.

At least four bankruptcy cases ended with payments for victims. In May 2008, the Davenport diocese agreed to pay $37 million to more than 150 people. A $50 million settlement in 2007 involving about 175 lawsuits ended a bankruptcy filing by the Portland archdiocese, which set aside another $20 million for future claims.

The Tucson diocese emerged from Chapter 11 in 2005 after creating a fund of more than $20 million for people molested by clergy. The Catholic Diocese of Spokane settled by offering to pay victims $48 million that it is raising through sale of assets and by donations.

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