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The Diocese of Rochester proposes settlement of bankruptcy case; survivors of sexual abuse push back

 Federal building in Rochester, NY
United States Bankruptcy Court - Western District
Federal building in Rochester, NY

Lawyers for people who say they were victimized by child sexual abuse from clergy in the Rochester Catholic Diocese are unhappy with an attempt by the diocese to settle those claims in U.S. Bankruptcy Court.

Attorney Jeff Anderson, who is one of the lawyers representing 175 of those who are claimants in the lawsuits, said that the diocese is trying to force a $147 million dollar settlement on 475 survivors and victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Anderson does not feel that is a particularly generous offer. He contends that that the Diocese has billions of dollars in insurance coverage. He called it, "an effort to cheat survivors that will retraumatize them."

Another attorney representing those involved in the lawsuits, Mitchell Garabedian, said the amount of money being offered is tied to the respect that should be shown for the survivors of childhood sexual abuse.

“Survivors need validation and they need to know that justice has prevailed, and the sexual abuse was not their fault,” said Garabedian. “And by offering such a low number the diocese has revictimized clergy sexual abuse survivors.”

Garabedian is pleased that a federal judge did say recently that some of the people alleging abuse will be able to sue parishes in state court.

Bob Hoatson is a former priest and also heads up a group called Road to Recovery which helps victims of sexual abuse and their families.

Hoatson said that he wants to see justice and he hopes survivors will get their cases heard in court.

“The key is that the judge is giving the church a signal that he does not like people who delay, stall and obfuscate,” said Hoatson. “And that was clear in the decision that he wrote. It’s time for the survivors to have their day in court.”

The Rochester Diocese issued a statement saying that it believes the proposed settlements are in the best interest of survivors, and said that, “Should the Court approve the proposed settlements, the Diocese will be able to provide a concrete benefit to survivors who have already waited too long for recompense.”

Randy Gorbman is WXXI's director of news and public affairs. Randy manages the day-to-day operations of WXXI News on radio, television, and online.