Sunday, July 30, 2023

Update on number, status of US diocesan bankruptcies

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The Diocese of Ogdensburg, New York became the sixth in the state to declare bankruptcy last week, following almost 140 sexual abuse lawsuits for incidents dating back decades filed under the state’s Child Victims Act. 

Now, only the Archdiocese of New York and the Diocese of Brooklyn have not filed for bankruptcy as a result of the legislation. 

More than two dozen U.S. dioceses, including two in U.S. overseas territories, have entered into bankruptcy proceedings, the vast majority in the past decade. 

Of those dioceses, 12 are in the midst of the proceedings as of July 2023, while 17 have completed the process. 

Many dioceses have cited the high cost of settling abuse claims as a major factor in the decision to declare bankruptcy. 

The dioceses currently in the midst of bankruptcy proceedings are Albany, Buffalo, Camden, New Orleans, Norwich, Oakland, Ogdensburg, Rochester, Rockville Centre, San Juan (Puerto Rico), Santa Fe, and Syracuse. 

The dioceses that have completed their bankruptcy proceedings are Agaña (Guam), Davenport, Duluth, Fairbanks, Gallup, Great Falls-Billings, Harrisburg, Helena, Milwaukee, New Ulm, Portland in Oregon, St. Paul and Minneapolis, Spokane, Stockton, Tucson, Wilmington, and Winona-Rochester.

Law professor Marie T. Reilly, in conjunction with The Catholic Project at The Catholic University of America, has tracked all the U.S. dioceses that have declared bankruptcy. 

Reilly told CNA that in several of the 24 U.S. states and three territories that have temporarily “revived” the statute of limitations on claims of abuse, multiple Catholic dioceses have been forced to declare bankruptcy amid a mounting number of new abuse claims brought to light during the statute of limitations “revival windows.” 

In New York, which opened a two-year window for old abuse claims to be filed in August 2019, six of the state’s eight dioceses have declared bankruptcy, all since 2019. 

In Minnesota, four of the state’s six dioceses have declared bankruptcy following the opening of a three-year window from 2013-2016. 

California was the first state to enact a temporary revival window after 2002, according to a report from Child USA, a think tank that focuses on child protection. 

Since then, 18 more states — Delaware, Hawaii, Minnesota, Georgia, Utah, Michigan, New York, Montana, New Jersey, Arizona, Vermont, North Carolina, Kentucky, Arkansas, Nevada, Louisiana, Maine, and Colorado; and three territories — Guam, Washington, D.C., and Northern Mariana Islands — have opened windows. Most have been two to three years long. 

Some states — including Maine and Vermont — have opened “permanent windows” on their statutes of limitations to allow alleged victims to bring claims forward no matter when the alleged abuse occurred.