Diocese of Norwich files for bankruptcy amid abuse lawsuits – NBC Connecticut
The Diocese of Norwich has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and church officials say it is a move to help manage a response to nearly 60 lawsuits filed against the diocese for alleged abuse of the Mount Saint John School.
“… it became clear that the Diocese could not continue to carry out its spiritual, charitable and educational missions while bearing the potential costs of litigation associated with these cases”, Bishop Michael Cote, Bishop of the Diocese of Norwich, said in a video to the community.
NBC Connecticut has already covered some of the lawsuits against the diocese.
The lawsuits relate to complaints about allegations of abuse that allegedly took place at Mount Saint John School, a former ministry and boarding school for at-risk children in Deep River. They allege abuse by a number of clergymen and staff which the men say occurred repeatedly over a period of more than a decade, from the mid-1980s to 2000.
Six survivors are represented by lawyer Kelly Reardon.
“Every time a sued organization declares bankruptcy, it’s not good news,” Reardon said.
In the federal case, the diocese claims to have an estimated liability of $ 50 to $ 100 million. But that’s more than the estimated assets of $ 10 million to $ 50 million.
“We hope there will be some transparency so that we can make sure that survivors have access to every penny they can possibly get because they have to. They’ve been through hell in their life, ”Reardon added.
Thursday’s bankruptcy filing creates a lot of unknowns and casts a curve for the dozens of survivors who have stepped forward, including those portrayed by Reardon.
“They were collectively upset to find that the process was going to take longer than they had anticipated. But they’re tough and they’re ready to hang on, ”Reardon said.
In 2019, the diocese appointed 43 priests who had “substantive allegations” against them.
Filing for bankruptcy, Cote said the diocese would be able to centralize litigation to reach settlements. Other religious institutions have also undergone similar reorganizations in response to allegations of abuse to compensate potential victims.
Côté said services and ministries will continue uninterrupted during the reorganization process. Employees will still be paid and benefit programs will continue.
“We will work diligently with all Survivors, Creditors and Departments to maintain open communication as we work on a settlement and a restructuring plan that includes a Comprehensive Resolution for Survivors,” Cote said.
Lawyer Reardon says it’s unclear how long this will last, but they are hopeful there will be a settlement.