Following the Lead of a Growing Number of New York Dioceses, the Diocese of Rockville Centre Attempts to Keep Child Victims Act Cases from Reaching Courts
(Long Island, NY) – The Diocese of Rockville Centre’s decision to file Chapter 11 bankruptcy is a disappointing, yet unsurprising, attempt to conceal the truth about predator priests in the Diocese at the expense of sexual abuse survivors.
“Like their recent attacks on the Child Victims Act and their efforts to intimidate survivors from coming forward, we see the Diocese’s decision to declare bankruptcy as strategic, cowardly and wholly self-serving,” said attorney Jeff Anderson of Jeff Anderson & Associates.
The Diocese of Rockville Centre is following the cynical and damaging playbook of its fellow Roman Catholic Dioceses of New York: the Diocese of Rochester (09.12.19), Diocese of Buffalo (02.28.20), and, most recently, the Diocese of Syracuse (06.19.20). More than two dozen Catholic Dioceses and Archdioceses across the country have previously filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy to avoid facing the civil justice system, which forces transparency and accountability.
“At the heart of these cases we find a willful deceit on the Diocese’s part—persistent attempts to evade accountability and a concerted effort to conceal information,” continued Anderson. “For decades the Diocese has possessed knowledge that could have prevented an untold number of horrors against children.”
Since the CVA took effect on August 14, 2019, Anderson’s firm has filed more than 70 sexual abuse complaints against the Diocese on behalf of numerous survivors. Apart from naming dozens known perpetrators of child sexual abuse, a number of these complaints have identified several offenders publicly for the first time, including:
- Father Daniel Sheridan
- Father Hugh Reilly
- Father Robert Giuntini
- Father Valentine Stortz
- Father Robert O’Connell
- Brother William Campbell
- Brother Rafael Edes, F.S.C.
- Brother Michael Mora, O.S.F.
- Brother Howard Murphy, F.M.S.
An Obstacle on the Path to Justice, But Not the End of the Road
Bankruptcy can limit survivors’ ability to unearth names and information regarding predator priests, expose top officials who covered up for the sexually abusive clergy, and bring to light what these officials knew and when they knew it.
“This lack of transparency is a real threat to child safety,” said attorney Trusha Goffe. “But survivors will still have the power to come forward to seek justice and healing.”
As part of the Chapter 11 process, the bankruptcy court will soon set a claims bar date, which will be the deadline for sexual abuse survivors to file a claim in bankruptcy court or risk losing their legal rights forever. “This decision is not the end for courageous survivors abused by clergy in this Diocese,” said Anderson. “Survivors will still be able to come forward, expose the truth, help protect children, and seek healing. This will not stop survivors or us from fighting to make sure the Diocese of Rockville Centre is held accountable.”
The Diocese of Rockville Centre: Battleground for Survivor Rights in New York State
In August of 2019, the New York Child Victims Act (CVA) opened one year look-back window allowing survivors to bring claims for child sex abuse. On August 3, 2020, that window was extended to August 13, 2021, giving New York survivors an additional year to bring claims. While hundreds of claims against the New York Dioceses have been brought across the state under the CVA in its first year, the bulk of New York Bishops’ efforts to defeat the law has been taking place on Long Island.
- On May 13, Nassau County Court Supreme Court denied the Diocese of Rockville Centre’s attempt to throw out 44 lawsuits filed by sexual abuse survivors under the CVA. Judge Steven M. Jaeger rejected the diocese’s argument that the CVA was unconstitutional and violated its right to due process concluding that the “Child Victims Act was a reasonable response to remedy the injustice of past sexual abuse.”
- On May 15, a parish within the Diocese filed a notice of appeal challenging Judge Jager’s order allowing a survivor of childhood sexual abuse to proceed anonymously under the pseudonym “ARK3 Doe.” Anderson called the move “a bald-faced scare tactic to discourage survivors from coming forward.”
- On May 29, the Diocese of Rockville Centre joined several parishes in filing notices of appeal challenging the Nassau County Supreme Court decision that allowed childhood sexual abuse cases filed under the CVA to proceed.
- On July 30, the Nassau County Supreme Court denied the Diocese’s motion to stay all child sex abuse lawsuits brought against the Diocese under the Child Victims Act (CVA).
- On August 3, New York Governor Andrew Cuomo signed into law a one-year extension to the “look-back” window provided by the New York Child Victims Act.
- On September 21, the New York Appellate Division – 2nd Department denied the Diocese of Rockville Centre’s motion to stay all child sex abuse lawsuits brought against the Diocese under the Child Victims Act (CVA).
- On October 1, the Diocese filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy.
“The Diocese of Rockville Centre is opting for a slash and burn litigation approach against survivors of childhood sexual abuse,” said Anderson. “Bishop Barres often states publicly that the Diocese is trying to atone for its tremendous sins in its long history of failing to protect children, but in the courtroom, the Diocese’s representatives are filing unfounded motions, baseless appeals, and resorting to intimidation tactics to keep survivors from coming forward.”