Established in 1957, the Diocese of Rockville Centre in Nassau County, NY, is currently the eighth largest diocese in the country. It retains 392 presidents in active ministry who are responsible for serving approximately 1.5 million baptized Catholics. Despite its size, the diocese announced on October 1, 2020, that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a result of the various lawsuits that the church has pending against it. Since Governor Cuomo signed legislation extending the “look-back window” for the Child Victims Act, the Diocese of Rockville now faces more than 200 clergy sexual abuse allegations. The church claims that filing for bankruptcy will result in victims receiving fair compensation for suffering, but attorneys who have substantial experience fighting for sexual abuse victims have responded that this decision is self-serving.
How the Bankruptcy Filing Will Impact Sexual Abuse Survivors
As a result of the diocese filing for bankruptcy, victims of sexual abuse that occurred at the diocese or involved priests will likely end up receiving less in compensation. Filing for bankruptcy also likely means that records could be sealed, which would in turn make it harder for other victims to obtain compensation.
The bankruptcy comes after the diocese has already paid off a number of victims. The diocese reports that it has already paid more than $62 million to settle approximately 350 cases. These payments were made through an independent compensation program that was established in 2017. Due to filing for bankruptcy, many individuals who were in the process of obtaining a settlement will now likely have this process delayed.
Where do Funds for Clergy Abuse Settlements Come From?
The question of where funds come from to pay sex abuse victims is a critical one. Some dioceses argue that they do not own parish and foundation funds and as a result claim that they should not be included when deciding victim settlements. Many victims’ rights lawyers, however, argue the opposite. There have also been cases of dioceses attempting to hide funds to keep them away from creditors. While the diocese has reported it has both liabilities and assets between $100 million to $500 million, many attorneys believe that it is necessary to litigate against the diocese to determine exactly how much the church owns as well as to determine where those assets are located.
The Child Victims Act
Passed in 2019, the Child Victims Act has encouraged thousands of sexual abuse victims come forward with their claims. The Act allows survivors to raise their claims and commence civil cases regardless of the date when the abuse occurred or how long the victim has waited to come forward. Before this regulation, the statute of limitations in New York ran out when the victim reached the age of 23. While the Child Victims Act was originally slated to end on August 13, 2020, it has since been extended to August 2021. So far, over 3,000 survivors have raised their claims of child abuse. The total number of victims who will bring claims under the Act is likely to end up being much larger.
Obtain the Services of an Experienced Clergy Abuse Attorney in Long Island
If you are the victim of sex abuse, it is important to remember that legal action can be initiated against both the sexual abuser or a liable third party. These cases are often complex and nuanced, which is why it is important to retain the assistance of a compassionate attorney who will fight to make sure that you receive everything you deserve. Contact the Law Office of Cohen & Jaffe LLP today to schedule a free case evaluation.
For a free legal consultation, call 516-358-6900