The Diocese of Norwich has filed for bankruptcy amid a flurry of clergy abuse lawsuits. Bishop Michael R. Cote made the announcement July 15, 2021. The bankruptcy announcement came in response to survivors filing nearly 60 lawsuits against the former Academy at Mount Saint John School. The Diocese of Norwich ran the residential youth treatment center.
The lawsuits allege former students were sexually abused at the diocese-run facility in Deep River, Connecticut.
Bishop Cote claims the bankruptcy proceedings will allow the diocese to better handle abuse claims and provide compensation to survivors. However, victim advocates believe the bankruptcy could restrict the path to settlements for many survivors.
More Than Two Dozen Survivors File Abuse Lawsuits
Dozens of survivors have brought lawsuits against the Diocese of Norwich. The lawsuits allege incidents of sexual abuse dating as far back as the mid-1980s.
In 2018, 24 men filed one of the first lawsuits against the diocese, pertaining to the abuse at Mount Saint John School. According to the lawsuit, between 1986 and 2000, staff members of Mount Saint John School sexually abused the plaintiffs. At the time of the abuse, the plaintiffs ranged between the ages of 11 and 15.
Apart from the allegations connected to the Mount Saint John School, the diocese has also faced other clergy abuse allegations.
In 2019, Bishop Cote released the names of an additional 43 diocesan priests facing “allegations of substance.” These men were accused of sexually abusing minors. Many of the allegations date back to 1953, when the Diocese of Norwich was established.
Lawmakers Expanded The Rights Of Sexual Abuse Survivors
Roughly 150 Catholic priests have been accused of clergy sexual abuse in Connecticut. In 2019, state legislators sought to expand the rights of child sexual abuse survivors, including those abused by clergy members. In June 2019, the Connecticut governor signed Senate Bill 3 into law, expanding the state’s statute of limitations for child sexual abuse survivors.
Despite these expansions, not all Connecticut victims are able to file clergy abuse claims. Survivors of child sexual abuse over the age of 51 are time-barred from filing civil lawsuits against their abuser, as determined by the state’s legal deadlines.
How The Bankruptcy Proceedings Will Affect Survivors
An attorney representing six of the victims responded to the bankruptcy announcement, saying “Anytime an organization that is being sued declares bankruptcy it’s not good news.”
The bankruptcy filing pauses all litigation against the diocese. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court will likely set a deadline for survivors and organizations to file claims against the diocese. Abuse survivors will have to file a claim with the court to receive compensation from the diocese.
The Diocese of Norwich is one of nearly 30 Catholic dioceses to file for bankruptcy. The filing revealed the diocese owes $50 to $100 million in restitution to between 50 and 99 creditors. But, the same documents list the diocese’s assets at only $10 to $50 million.
Survivors looking to file a claim through the bankruptcy court should consult a clergy abuse lawyer to learn more about the filing process.
LaBella, J. (2021, July 23). Norwich diocese bankruptcy can prevent restitution in sexual abuse cases, experts say. The Middletown Press.
Austin, M., DiGiammerino, T. (2021, July 16). Diocese of Norwich Files for Bankruptcy Amid Abuse Lawsuits. NBC Connecticut.
Haigh, S. (2021, July 15). Connecticut diocese files for bankruptcy amid abuse claims. The Associated Press.
(2019, February 10). Diocese of Norwich Names 43 Priests Who Faced Allegations of Abuse. NBC Connecticut.