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Bishop Threatens Survivors’ Privacy

“Bishop Matano is the first New York prelate to challenge the survivors’ ability to proceed anonymously in a bankruptcy case,” attorneys say.

(Rochester, NY) – Tomorrow at a hearing in the Diocese of Rochester bankruptcy case, the Diocese, in a brazen act of intimidation, will seek to challenge the anonymity of the courageous survivors who seek the court’s permission to take their cases to trial. This callous tactic shows a complete disregard for the welfare of survivors, demonstrates a lack of empathy, and could cause these survivors irreparable harm.

“It’s wrong to deny survivors options for justice and healing, and to try and interfere with their ability to proceed anonymously,” said attorney Jeff Anderson of Jeff Anderson & Associates. “Survivors of horrific childhood abuse deserve to have choices regarding whether to proceed anonymously or to come forward and share their story with the public, thereby exposing the Bishop’s secrecy and cover-up. But above all, these deeply wounded individuals should never be forced to disclose their names against their will. Especially at the insistence of those who wounded them.”

The Committee of Unsecured Creditors in the bankruptcy case by motion dated May 19 indicated that some of the survivors intend to seek relief from the automatic bankruptcy stay to take their cases to trial. The Committee asked the court to seal the identities of these survivors. Instead of agreeing with the survivors’ request for anonymity, the Diocese filed a response to the motion to seal, indicating that the survivors should each have to individually make a rigorous showing of why they deserve to proceed anonymously, despite that each were horrifically sexually abused as children in the Diocese of Rochester.

Bishop Matano’s strategic use of Chapter 11 bankruptcy to hide the crimes of predator priests and those who covered up for them in the Diocese is a familiar tactic out of the Church’s Financial Playbook, but simultaneously using the Chapter 11 process to threaten survivors with the exposure of their names adds a dangerous new play. It is designed to keep victims in the shadows and to dissuade survivors from coming forward.

On September 12, 2019, the Diocese of Rochester was the first Catholic Diocese in New York to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy after being named as a defendant in dozens of clergy sexual abuse lawsuits filed under the New York Child Victims Act. Chapter 11 bankruptcy often prevents survivors from pursuing legal action, exposing predators, and holding the Diocese accountable.

“We want to assure the survivors and their family members who have been harmed for so long and have brought claims against the Diocese of Rochester that the Diocese should not be able to proceed in this manner,” said Boyd. “The Diocese’s actions and decisions in the bankruptcy case will not deter the survivors from seeking accountability, and we stand ready for battle at their side.”

While the Diocese of Rochester’s bankruptcy filing imposed an artificial deadline cutting short the New York Child Victims Act, survivors across New York still have until the end of the Child Victims Act on August 13, 2021, to file a civil lawsuit related to their abuse.

The hearing will be held at 11 am ET in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of New York.