Sexual-Abruptcy takes Church to Bankruptcy

published on October 22, 2009

Delaware Diocese Files for Bankruptcy in Wake of Abuse Suits

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, Del., said Monday that it had filed for bankruptcy to manage the potential liability resulting from a flood of lawsuits on sexual abuse by members of the clergy.

The Chapter 11 filing, which freezes all pending litigation against the diocese, came as the first of some eight lawsuits was scheduled to go to trial in Kent County Superior Court.

“The filing shows how desperate the diocese is to hide the truth from the public and avoid paying their victims,” said Mr. Neuberger, who on Monday released court documents that would have come out during the trial.

The case that was due to start trial Monday had been filed by John Michael Vai, 57, who says he had been sexually abused by the Rev. Francis G. DeLuca, 79, who served in the diocese for 35 years before he was removed from the priesthood and allowed to retire to his hometown of Syracuse, N.Y. Mr. Vai said the abuse occurred when he was an altar boy at St. Elizabeth Church in Wilmington from 1966 to 1970.

Barbara Blaine, president of the advocacy group Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said:

“There is clearly a national legal plan to avoid public disclosure of the details of abuse. Most victims don’t want money; they want their day in court. They want the truth to come out through discovery and the subpoena of documents, but the bankruptcy tactic is preventing that possibility.”

According to court documents, the diocese and certain parish churches are defendants in 131 sexual-abuse cases.

The diocese has assets of as much as $100 million and liabilities of as much as $500 million, the court papers say. It contains 233,000 Roman Catholics, and has 58 parishes, 21 missions and 27 schools in Delaware and on Maryland’s Eastern Shore.

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