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The Day – Diocese of Norwich faces 140 sexual assault claims in bankruptcy case

Norwich – A Federal Bankruptcy Court judge has again extended the deadline for the Diocese of Norwich to submit a bankruptcy plan, so that creditors, including 140 people who say they were sexually assaulted by priests, can meet with a mediator and resolve a number of contentious issues.

Judge James Tancredi on Monday ordered that the Roman Catholic Diocese’s exclusive filing period for the plan be extended until September 30. This was the fourth extension for the diocese. In April, Tancredi extended the deadline to June 15, again to give the parties more time to negotiate a deal.

The diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy 11 months ago as it faces more than 60 lawsuits from men who claim they were sexually abused as boys by Christian brothers and sisters. other staff at Mount Saint John Academy, a school for troubled boys in the diocese. Deep River, from 1990 to 2002. Since then, an additional 80 people, whose sexual assault allegations involved not only the school but also diocesan churches, have filed claims in the bankruptcy case. In addition, various other creditors claim part of the property of the diocese.

The bankruptcy process, which freezes lawsuits against the diocese, will assess the assets of the diocese and determine how much each victim will receive in damages. All 51 parishes in the diocese have joined the diocese in seeking bankruptcy protection from sexual abuse claims and will have to contribute funds to the settlement. This would prevent victims from suing parishes in the future. March 15 was the deadline for victims and others to file claims in the case. A total of 170 complaints were filed.

One of the 140 alleged victims who filed the complaint, Tim McGuire, 63, of New London, said on Tuesday that a new delay is painful for the victims.

“For all of us, every day is a struggle. I deal with this every day. Every day,” said McGuire, who said a Noank priest sexually abused him when he was 8. “I’ve struggled with my mental health every day for the past 55 years. It’s a constant torment. We just want it to be over.”

McGuire was unable to sue the diocese because of the state’s statute of limitations for filing a lawsuit, which was increased from 48 to 51 two years ago. An expert who testified before a General Assembly subcommittee in 2019 said the average age at which a victim of childhood sexual abuse reveals what happened to them is 52. Bills to temporarily eliminate the statute of limitations so that victims of any age can sue have not been successful in the legislature.

In their motion for an extension, attorneys for the diocese wrote that the diocese, the creditors’ committee, the diocesan insurer Catholic Mutual Relief Society of America, the Congregation of Christian Brethren, Mount St. John, the association of 51 parishes diocesan, Xavier High School Corp. and Mercy High School in Middletown and St. Bernard High School in Montville met in January to discuss issues such as the value of diocesan assets and properties, insurance coverage, the sale of Mount Saint John and litigation in court against the Christian Brothers – all issues that must be resolved to file for bankruptcy. The Christian brothers are part of the negotiations, as the late Brother K. Paul McGlade is accused of raping and sexually assaulting the boys at Mount Saint John.

The motion says the diocese and creditors committee exchanged proposed bankruptcy plans in January and then hired appraisers to appraise the high school properties. Additionally, the motion says the diocese has shared information about monies owed to it by other Catholic entities and its cash accounts with the creditors’ committee. And since March 15, he says the Diocese and Creditors Committee has worked diligently to quantify and assess the proof of claim forms victims and other creditors have filed.

The motion also indicates that the parties failed to reach an agreement on important issues such as the value of certain diocesan properties, insurance coverage from Mutuelle Catholique and other insurers, and possible additional contributions to the trust fund. regulation by the diocese, the parishes, the secondary schools, the Christian Brothers and the Mutuelle Catholique.

The parties have agreed to begin mediation on or around July 14 and to continue the following week. The Diocese and Creditors Committee filed a motion to appoint Paul A. Finn as mediator.

Finn, a Boston-based attorney, has helped mediate many similar claims in dioceses across the country. Among these were 552 claims from people claiming to have been abused by priests in the Archdiocese of Boston and, most recently, sexual abuse claims against priests in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. He also resolved claims during the 2003 Station nightclub fire in Warwick, RI

“Mediation will help the parties move quickly toward a consensual reorganization while minimizing the costs associated with litigation of contentious issues,” the motion states, adding that the diocese and committee believe September 30 gives them sufficient time to complete the process. mediation and propose a reorganization plan to the court.

The motion states that the extension and mediation will allow the parties to reach a consensus, maximizing the recovery of victims and preserving the mission of the diocese. Litigating outstanding issues would likely result in more delays and more legal costs, leaving less money for victims. As of Tuesday, there had already been 667 court filings in the case, resulting in millions of dollars in legal fees.

Arguing for the extension, diocesan lawyers said the case was “very complex” and that the parties needed more time to gather and share the information needed to develop a reorganization plan. Moreover, they state that the extension will allow the diocese to preserve and develop the progress already made.

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