BUFFALO, N.Y. (WKBW) — The Diocese of Buffalo's insurance company is arguing in court that it is not liable for sex abuse judgments because the diocese concealed the abuse for decades.
In documents recently filed in state court, Continental Insurance Company -- whose predecessor insured the diocese for much of the 1970s -- says that its policy only covers "accidents" which are reported in a timely manner to the insurer.
"Continental has no obligation to provide insurance coverage to the Diocese with respect to any sexual abuse claim, to the extent that the Diocese knew prior to the abuse that the relevant priest had: (i) engaged in earlier sexual abuse; (ii) posed a danger to children; or (iii) a propensity to commit sexual abuse," the company states.
Continental argues that if the diocese knew about the abuse and purposely concealed it, that is not an "accident" at all, but rather, as cited in news reports, "a decades-long pattern of covering up allegations of abuse."
The insurer points out that several lawsuits filed under the Child Victims Act "allege that the Diocese engaged in intentional bad acts with respect to alleged sexual abuse," such as transferring abusive priests from parish to parish where they went on to abuse more children. It says the company has no obligation to provide payments for court judgments if the diocese "had created a system of protecting, transferring, and obscuring the identities of pedophilic priests."
Kathy Spangler, spokeswoman for Bishop Richard J. Malone, said in a written statement, "The diocese has retained counsel who specializes in insurance coverage to address disputes with insurance carriers and intends to take all necessary steps to enforce the insurance contracts. This is the first insurance coverage lawsuit brought against the Diocese of Buffalo."
The insurer also states that the diocese is only now -- after the passage of the Child Victims Act, which suspended the statute of limitations on civil child sex abuse cases for one year -- informing the diocese of the abuse cases.
The policy states that the diocese had an obligation to provide details to the insurer "as soon as practicable," not decades later. It also states that the entire insurance policy is considered "void" if the diocese "willfully concealed or misrepresented" facts or was found to have committed fraud.
The court filing asks a judge to rule in favor either of the insurance company or the diocese to resolve the matter.