The Day – The Diocese of Norwich files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

Norwich – The Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich announced on Thursday that it has filed a voluntary bankruptcy and reorganization request, calling it the “fairest way” to resolve more than 60 pending lawsuits filed against the diocese alleging the rape and sexual abuse of boys who attended the former Mount Saint John Academy in Deep River.

In a video posted to the Diocese’s website, Bishop Michael Cote said that “this is probably the most important news I have had to share in my 18 years as a Shepherd of the Diocese of Norwich “, and that it was” taken only after two years of careful deliberation and prayer. “

This filing under Chapter 11 of the federal Bankruptcy Code stays the lawsuits, and Judge James T. Tancredi will hear the bankruptcy proceedings in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the District of Connecticut in Hartford.

The court will set a deadline for filing financial claims against the diocese, and the diocese has said it will negotiate in good faith to reach settlements with abuse survivors and approved creditors.

“This is not good news for anyone,” said Gail Howard, one of the Connecticut chapter co-leaders of the Network of survivors of those abused by priests, or SNAP. She said that if there is a date after which victims cannot file a complaint, anyone over the age of 51 who is currently excluded by the state statute of limitations is out of luck even if the state legislature eliminates the statute.

Early next year, the General Assembly is expected to re-consider a bill that would create a window for victims of all ages to bring legal action. Several men in their 50s and 60s in Southeast Connecticut told The Day they would likely sue the diocese, alleging they were sexually assaulted as children by priests assigned to the diocese , if the limitation period was repealed.

“This is going to be extremely disheartening for the survivors who have gone to legislatures, who have petitioned their lawmakers for years, asking for help, and these are people who don’t have much money. “Howard said. .

But Cote said in a press release that a “Chapter 11 bankruptcy will allow the court to centralize these lawsuits, as well as help the diocese manage its litigation expenses and preserve adequate financial resources for all ministries. essential “.

“If the diocese had not filed for bankruptcy, it would not be able to ensure that all people who file complaints are treated fairly and have equal access to available funds,” he said.

Mount Saint John’s was a boarding school for troubled boys in Deep River, where the late Christian brother K. Paul McGlade is accused of sexually assaulting many of them from 1990 to 2002.

The diocese said nearly 60 of these men are now seeking damages that exceed the diocese’s current capacity to pay. Former Norwich Bishop Daniel Reilly, now retired, served as chairman of the school’s board during the time of the alleged McGlade assaults. Records show the Diocese of Norwich requested McGlade’s transfer to Deep River School from Australia, where he was also charged with sexually assaulting young boys. It is not known why the Diocese of Norwich requested the transfer.

In November 2020, the diocese revealed that it was investigating the extent of child abuse by priests assigned to the diocese since 1953. The diocese said it would publish the results of the investigation in a public report. One has not yet been issued.

According to the Cote resolutions included in the bankruptcy filing, the diocese decided to employ Ice Miller LLP, based in New York, as general counsel in bankruptcy, Robinson & Cole LLP, based in Hartford, as as co-counsel, Norwich-based Brown Jacobson PC, as special advocate. , B Riley Advisory Services as financial advisor and Epiq Corporate Restructuring LLC as administrative advisor and claims, notification and voting agent.

“Where does the money come from for this?” Howard asked. She added, “They’re going to get the best and the brightest to help them control the damage.”

Also in the resolutions, Cote said he has initiated discussions with the other administrators of the diocese, the Diocesan Finance Council and the College of Councilors about the assets and liabilities of the diocese. The diocese estimates its assets between 10 and 50 million dollars and its liabilities between 50 and 100 million dollars.

The diocese has stated that its parishes, schools and cemeteries are not included in the bankruptcy, as they are separate legal entities, and the filing is not expected to impact employment, wages or employee benefits or retirements.

The diocese said the bankruptcy will not affect the administration of the sacraments either and that it plans to continue funding ministerial services such as Catholic Charities and St. Vincent de Paul Place.

According to the bankruptcy petition, no bankruptcy cases have been filed by or against the diocese in the past eight years, and no business partner or affiliate of the diocese has a bankruptcy case pending or being filed.

But Cote noted that counselors told him that more than 30 diocesan, archdiocesan and religious institutions have taken this step “in order to fairly compensate victims of abuse while continuing to carry out the spiritual, charitable and educational mission of the church “.

John “Tim” McGuire of New London, who went public in 2018 on the sexual abuse committed at the age of 8 by the late Reverend James Curry at St. Joseph’s Church in Noank, has said the bankruptcy of the Diocese of Norwich was not surprising. , because it is happening all over the country – but it is “humiliating for all victims”.

He said the diocese was running like a business and men of God should go to the victims to ask for forgiveness, but instead turn to their lawyers. He said the diocese was issuing an “artificial damage control statement that does not match their actions.”

“They took it upside down,” McGuire said. “I think you would deal with the moral bankruptcy of the church first, then the financial bankruptcy.”

e.moser@theday.com

j.wojtas@theday.com

Editor’s Note: The video with this story was posted by the Diocese of Norwich on Thursday, July 15, 2021.

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