Diocese of Rochester Cuts Abuse Victims Out of Process in Attempt to Force a Low-Ball Settlement with Insurance Companies

Bishop Matano Chooses Insurance Companies Over Survivors, Revictimizing Survivors Again

(Rochester, NY) – Today in the United States Bankruptcy Court for the Western District of New York, for the second time, the Diocese of Rochester filed a motion to force a $147 million settlement on 475 survivors and victims of clergy sexual abuse. “The plan is a shallow attempt by the bishop to escape accountability and an effort to cheat survivors that will retraumatize them,” said Jeff Anderson, one of the attorneys representing 175 survivors with attorney Steve Boyd.

The Diocese admitted that it has nearly $2 billion in insurance coverage. The actual insurance coverage is likely over $4 billion. “The Bishop is choosing to protect the insurance companies over the victims. It’s appalling,” said Steve Boyd. The diocese and insurance companies tried the same tactic earlier in the case. Judge Warren rejected their first attempt on July 9th, 2021.

Just two months ago, in the first child sexual abuse trial under the New York Child Victims Act,  an Erie county jury awarded one Boy Scout abuse victim $25 million for the harm he suffered. Bishop Matano’s scheme proposes to pay each clergy abuse victim only 1% of the amount awarded to the Boy Scout victim.

On September 12, 2019, the Diocese of Rochester filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after being named as a defendant wrongdoer in hundreds of clergy sexual abuse lawsuits and hundreds more direct suits brought against the parishes and schools who shared responsibility.  Recently, Catholic dioceses have used Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a shield to avoid trials, escape accountability and maintain secret records and files that protect predators.  This legal tactic prevents survivors of sexual abuse from pursuing legal action, exposing the predators of abuse, and from exposing the Diocese for the harm inflicted by its reckless practices of decades of protecting predators.

“First, the Diocese of Rochester and its predator priests stole victims’ innocence as children. Then, after the New York CVA passed, the Diocese stole victims’ right to a jury trial when it filed bankruptcy,” said Jeff Anderson. “Now, the Diocese is trying to steal each victim’s voice in this process. This will not stand. This cannot stand.”

The Diocese of Rochester’s filing reveals the following:

  1. The Diocese’s scheme cuts the survivors out of the legal decision-making process, denies survivors input, and a voice. By it not engaging survivors in the bankruptcy process and colluding with the insurers, parishes and schools against the survivors, the Diocese effectively denies them a seat at the table where mediation has been underway with sincere attempts to forge a path to resolution.  The Bishop is using and abusing his power over the innocent and inflicting harm while attempting to escape responsibility, all while ignoring the survivors’ pleas for justice and protection of children.
  2. This plan was devised by the Bishop, the parishes, and schools to pay a small fraction of what they can and should pay for any measure of real accountability,” said Steve Boyd, co-counsel with Jeff Anderson. The Diocese’s contribution to the settlement amount is only a fraction of what they are able to pay survivors.
  3. The scheme also sweeps the parishes, the schools, and other entities into the deal who are not in Chapter 11 and against whom hundreds of direct suits have been bravely brought by hundreds of survivors.
  4. This backroom deal includes all the insurance companies and makes it even more sinister as there are billions of dollars in insurance coverage available to the Bishop and the parishes to settle the claims working with survivors instead of against them. This settlement gives no power to the survivors and provides for only a small fraction of insurance coverage available to pay fair value.

“Survivors deserve legitimate accountability for the trauma inflicted upon them and deserve their voices be heard,” said Anderson. “I expect the survivors will stand strong and united against this sinister scheme.”

“So many survivors held hopes that the Diocese would work with them in mediation and now the Diocese sends a signal to survivors that they don’t count, and that the Diocese doesn’t care to hear their voices any longer,” said Boyd. “The victims’ power was stolen from them when they were kids and now Bishop Matano is trying to steal their power again.”

The Diocese filed its deal with the insurance companies while awaiting a decision from Judge Paul Warren in the Bankruptcy court as to whether the survivors can pursue their separate claims against the parishes and other entities in state court.  These entities are not part of the bankruptcy proceedings, but the state court cases have been stopped while the parties were in mediation over the last two years. Praise to the survivors for their courage and strength for standing up, speaking out and staying strong.