ROCHESTER, NY (WKBW) — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester has filed for bankruptcy under Chapter 11.
The filing comes following “dozens of lawsuits filed against clergy.” The bankruptcy was filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court in Rochester Thursday morning.
Since the Child Victims Act went into effect August 14, approximately 47 sex abuse lawsuits were filed in Monroe County against the Rochester Diocese. The Rochester Diocese has already paid out $4.27 million to 43 victims in priest abuse cases.
Rochester's Bishop Salvatore Matano met with reporters in Rochester Thursday afternoon to explain the reason for filing Chapter 11. He noted the diocese is facing a significant number of cases dating back decades and stated litigation costs would not allow the diocese to settle claims with victims.
"Very difficult and painful decision," remarked Matano. "We believe this is the only way we can provide just compensation for all who suffered the egregious sin of sexual abuse."
But the Rochester bishop reassured parishioners in his diocese that parish are not directly effected and are not part of the filing. He also stated that parishioners weekly donations would not be used for paying off abuse cases.
"I don’t see this in any way as a tactic...a reasonable person would look at the claims and demands that approaching $100 million. They can review our resources and would come to the conclusion that we could not minister to every victim that comes forward and help them out if we did not go this route," declared Matano.
But here in Buffalo, attorney Steve Boyd, who is handling dozens of cases against the Buffalo Diocese, says he is now representing many new cases in Rochester. Boyd tells 7 Eyewitness News the Rochester bishop should quote "be ashamed of himself" for filing Chapter 11.
"This is a move that is just another form of cover up and cover up has been their middle name - it's like the 11th commandment," Boyd said.
The cases now go from state court to federal bankruptcy court with an appointed panel set to decide on the cases instead of a jury...
"We were dying for this process to be decided by jurors – we wanted the public to tell us if we were right or wrong – we were fully confident to go in front of jury and let them see every one of our single cases and let the jury decided who did what and what it is worth.
Boyd says he wouldn't be surprised if buffalo bishop Richard Malone also files for Chapter 11. Last week Malone told reporters he is looking at either litigation or bankruptcy.
"So, we're right now that's the honest truth, we're looking at both of those, very, very closely and carefully. And i have not yet made a decision. There are people arguing both positions," stated Malone.
Boyd says filing Chapter 11 not only protects church from creditors, but prevents the truth about priest abuse scandal.
"And this is another legal maneuver to keep the truth hidden so that people can't know just how bad this was, just how the priests where in their individual actions and and how bad the supervisors were in sheltering them, moving them around and putting more and more people in danger when they did it," Boyd noted.
18 dioceses across the nation have filed bankruptcy protection because of the clergy sexual abuse scandal.
We asked Boyd if considered the filing as a coward way out.
"Oh...it's definitely the coward's way out – they are shutting this down – they're not shutting it down financially because they don't have that power, but they're trying to shut this down in terms of discovery, so they can keep their secrets secret and that's what they're all about," replied Boyd.
Boyd emphasized that for most of his clients it is not about the money, but getting to the truth of what happened to them. He said he expects to have 200-cases filed through the Child Victim's Act by mid-October.