NORWICH, CT (WFSB) – Parishioners were back in church Friday, one day after the Norwich Diocese announced it filed for chapter eleven bankruptcy.
Channel 3 spoke with some people at the Cathedral of St. Patrick in Norwich.
They said they were surprised by the news and were trying to understand it. They also said they want to make sure the diocese has the money to continue.
One expert said the chapter eleven filing is the best way to do it.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich announced on Thursday that it is filing for bankruptcy.
“I was surprised,” said Matthew Leonard, parishioner, Waterford. “I didn’t know they were in that type of situation.”
Leonard thought the Norwich Diocese was doing good financially, so he was caught off guard when the diocese filed for chapter eleven bankruptcy Thursday. The diocese is facing 60 lawsuits involving abuse allegations, many related to Mount St. John School in Deep River.
“I don’t feel that they’re trying to escape or the church is trying to get away from anything,” said Janet Yuris of Colchester,
Those at a noontime mass at the Cathedral of St. Patrick said the filing is about trying to protect the diocese, not about trying to shortchange victims. Bishop Michael Cote gave a similar message in a video, saying the filing would lead to negotiations of equitable payouts.
Quinnipiac Law Professor Robert White agreed.
“At some point the church runs out of money and the early birds have been paid in full and those folks who haven’t filed a claim yet are out of money,” White said.
Chapter eleven bankruptcy will allow the diocese to restructure its debt. Alleged victims will have a deadline to file claims. Victims who haven’t can no longer sue, but they file a claim as part of the bankruptcy proceedings. Then the diocese will negotiate one big settlement that will payout all claims.
“I can’t imagine this is something Jesus would approve of,” said Kathryn Robb, executive director, Child USA.
Robb said victims won’t get the payouts they were hoping for. Many victims will need money for ongoing therapy and treatment. The filing also stops the lawsuits, so plaintiffs can’t request records that might prove abuse and possible efforts to hide it.
“Their secrets will be kept secrets, and if their secrets are kept secret, then children are not safe,” Robb said.
White said it’s likely more victims will come forward. He gave the example of the Boy Scouts of America, which was facing hundreds of lawsuits when it filed for bankruptcy last year. It recently reached a settlement to pay $850 million for more than 80,000 claims.