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Proposed settlement announced between survivors of child sexual abuse and the Rochester Catholic Diocese

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James Brown
/
WXXI News

The Rochester Catholic Diocese and attorneys representing survivors of alleged sexual abuse have announced a proposed settlement that would see the diocese paying $55 million to compensate the victims.

And, according to the diocese, if the agreement is approved by U.S. Bankruptcy Court it would pave the way for the diocese to emerge from Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In 2019, the Rochester diocese was the first Catholic diocese in the state to file for bankruptcy protection related to dozens of lawsuits related to the alleged sexual abuse by clergy. Those claims happened after passage of the New York Child Victims Act, which gave victims the ability to bring cases involving abuse that used to be beyond the state’s statute of limitations.

According to the diocese, the so-called Restructuring Support Agreement announced Thursday night would establish a trust for the benefit of survivors of sexual abuse, and it also calls for a $55 million payment from the diocese, its parishes and related entities.

The agreement also allows abuse survivors to go after insurance companies involved in the case to pursue additional assets. That’s according to attorney Jeff Anderson whose law firm filed many of the lawsuits against the diocese. Anderson released a statement saying that, “This partial settlement is a pathway to a full measure of accountability.”

A statement released by the leader of the Rochester Catholic Diocese, Bishop Salvatore Matano, said that the Restructuring Support Agreement “represents the fairest approach for the survivors and most viable path forward for the Diocese and its related Catholic entities to continue our shared mission of healing and reconciliation.”

In a statement on the diocesan website, Matano wrote that "while I know my words may seem hollow, simply repeating a rehearsed apology, I renew with sincerity my deep apology to the survivors of sexual abuse."

The statement from the diocese said that more than 450 sexual abuse claims have been filed in this case and it said that the claims relate to instances of abuse “that occurred many years ago and even decades before the Chapter 11 case was filed.

Anderson said that credit should go to the survivors “for their willingness to support each other against the deceit and deception that the diocese has historically employed.” He said the settlement also calls for other commitments from the diocese, including child protection measures.

According to Jim Cali, Chair of the Official Creditors Committee, the negotiated settlement will be incorporated into a plan of reorganization that survivors will have an opportunity to vote on. That committee expects the process to take about six months to complete. The creditors committee said that it represents the interests of approximately 475 sexual abuse survivors who asserted claims against the diocese.

The statement from the Rochester diocese said that it hopes it can emerge from Chapter 11 sometime mid-summer to early fall of 2023.

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.