The Norwich Diocese recently filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, following the legal playbook established by 30 other church dioceses and orders in the United States also facing abuse allegations. It claims assets valued between $10 to $50 million and liabilities of as much as $100 million. This was done as it faces nearly 60 sex abuse lawsuits.
Representing several victims, firm attorney Kelly E. Reardon spoke with the Hartford Courant, pointing out that the church’s insurance through Catholic Mutual Relief Society is “fairly limited,” which could mean victims are unable to obtain full compensation for the abuse they endured. She later added, “These are tough men who have been through a lot in their lives and will stick it out as long as it takes.”
In other bankruptcies, settlements have ranged from $210 million for 450 victims in the Minneapolis-St. Paul Diocese to $9.8 million for 290 victims in the Alaska Diocese.
“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 essential ministries,” Bishop Michael Cote said in a statement.
Many of the Norwich lawsuits stem from abuse that occurred at the Mount St. John School of Deep River, which closed in 2013. The Diocese ran the residential school and served at-risk boys with behavioral, emotional, educational, and family problems. These children were sent there by the state’s courts and the Department of Children and Families (DCF). The Reardon Law Firm represents several men who attended the school and many others who have claims against the Norwich Diocese as a result of abuse they experienced in parishes.
Process of bankruptcy
While critics may disagree, the Diocese claims that the bankruptcy is not about minimizing the amount available to survivors, but instead ensuring that all of them are able to receive a portion of the Diocese’s available assets. The bankruptcy will also likely move any pending claims along faster than they might proceed in a state court. Oversight by a Bankruptcy Court Judge in Hartford may also force the Diocese to provide a full accounting of its finances, which would dispel concerns that that Church is hiding assets.