Bankruptcy adds to sad legacy of Catholic Church scandal


July 20 — The past moral bankruptcy of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich inevitably led to its financial bankruptcy.

Last week, the diocese serving Connecticut counties of New London, Middlesex, Windham and Tolland, as well as Fishers Island, NY, filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code.

Along with Catholic dioceses across the country and around the world, the Diocese of Norwich shares a shameful legacy of placing the protection of the church’s reputation above the protection of children, above acting legally and above. of the Great Commandment to “love your neighbor as yourself”.

When it turned out that dozens of priests had assaulted children – mostly but not exclusively boys – no love was shown to the victims. Instead, the truth was laid to rest, and the pedophile priests were quietly transferred to other parishes, with families there unaware of the past misconduct. Often the result was new casualties. It was wrong.

Instead of protecting the reputation of the Catholic Church, the cover-up tainted it, drove out many faithful when the truth became known, and left behind untold multitude of damaged people.

The local diocese has settled numerous disputes involving dozens of victims, details and damages hidden by non-disclosure agreements. But the extent and degree of neglect in a pending case is so blatant that the diocese is telling the court it needs the relief of a bankruptcy reorganization to survive.

This case involves the former Mount St. John Distressed Boys’ Residential School in Deep River. According to the bankruptcy filing, the diocese was named in about 54 lawsuits by men who were once boys in school. They claim to have been sexually abused during the tenure of the late Christian Brother K. Paul McGlade, Executive Director from 1990-2002.

Surprisingly and inexplicably, former Norwich Bishop Daniel Reilly, chairman of the school administrators, brought in McGlade from across the world – Australia – to run the school. This despite the fact that McGlade had been accused there of sexually assaulting young boys. The diocese provided no explanation for Reilly’s decision.

In a video explaining the reason for the bankruptcy, current Bishop Michael Cote says he “provides a comprehensive resolution for survivors” and “ensures all survivors are included and treated fairly.”

The Statements are an attempt to give the best insight into the reality that a Chapter 11 filing, by its very nature, is a strategy to force creditors, including in this case victims seeking payment of damages. , to pay less than they would otherwise be. entitled.

In fairness, it was largely left to Cote, who was appointed Bishop of Norwich in 2003, to clean up the mess left by his predecessors. There was no claim that he transferred priests to protect their profane acts. Under his leadership, the diocese initiated a program designed to prevent abuse and which requires immediate referral to law enforcement when suspected.

While Cote apparently had no other options, it is troubling that an issue of such moral importance is dealt with in a cold and calculating manner in a procedure created to help bankrupt businesses survive.

Diocesan lawyers – and they have hired powerful ones, including Robinson & Cole of Hartford and Brown Jacobson of Norwich – will seek to protect as many diocesan assets as possible from the consideration of payments.

In the documents filed, the diocese argues that the 51 parishes, its schools and charities are separate companies beyond the reach of bankruptcy proceedings.

It’s a puzzle for the court to solve. On the one hand, why should parishioners be punished for acts over which they had no control? And charities such as the St. Vincent Soup Kitchen at Paul Place in Norwich and Catholic Charities provide an important public service. On the other hand, what priority is greater than trying to make these victims whole?

And what about victims who have been barred from seeking compensation because the statute of limitations for bringing legal action has passed, a statute the church has been pushing to keep in place? Any righteous settlement of this Chapter 11 reorganization should include the creation of a fund to help these people.

In his video, Cote describes the bankruptcy reorganization as “a fair way to right the terrible wrongs of the past.”

It’s not. The sad reality is that there seems to be no way to do this.

The Day Editorial Board meets regularly with political, business and community leaders and meets weekly to formulate editorial perspectives. It is made up of President and Editor Tim Dwyer, Editorial Page Editor Paul Choiniere, Editor Izaskun E. Larrañeta, Editor Erica Moser and retired Associate Editor Lisa McGinley. However, only the editor and the editor of the editorial page are responsible for the preparation of editorial notices. The board operates independently of the Day newsroom.

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