Wilmington Catholic diocese claims bankruptcy on eve of sex abuse case

By Jacqueline L. Salmon The Diocese of Wilmington, which filed for bankruptcy Sunday night just as a sex-abuse trial against … Continued

By Jacqueline L. Salmon

The Diocese of Wilmington, which filed for bankruptcy Sunday night just as a sex-abuse trial against the diocese and a former priest was set to get underway, is the seventh U.S. Catholic diocese facing sex-abuse claims to file for bankruptcy. (And the first on the East Coast.)

The bankruptcy filing in Wilmington automatically delayed the start of the sex abuse trial, which was supposed to start on Monday. It would have been the first of eight trials scheduled against the diocese, which covers Delaware and the Maryland Eastern Shore.
Wilmington bishop Rev. W. Francis Malooly said he had no other choice.

In all, 142 sex-abuse claims have been filed against the diocese (eight of those cases were set to go to trial on Monday), and Malooly said he wanted to to provide the “fairest possible treatment of all victims of sexual abuse by priests of our Diocese.”

The trial set to start on Monday was that of former priest Francis DeLuca and the diocese. Deluca served as a priest in the diocese of 35 years.
Our hope is that Chapter 11 proceedings will enable us to fairly compensate all victims through a single process established by the bankruptcy court,” Malooly said in a statement posted late Sunday night on the diocese Web site.

According to the Wilmington News-Journal, the diocese of 233,00 Catholics listed assets in its Chapter 11 filing of as much as $100 million and liabilities of as much as $500 million. It faces up to $100 million in liability from lawsuits.

That’s because of a “lookback” law passed in 2007 that allowed victims of child sexual abuse barred from filing suit against their abusers because the statute of limitations had run out to go to court anyway during a two-year window that expired in July.

The attorney for the largest group of victims isn’t so happy. Thomas Neuberger, who represents 88 people, called it a “desperate effort to hide the truth from the public and conceal the thousands of pages of scandalous documents” from being made public in court.

Other dioceses that have resorted to bankruptcy are: Davenport, Iowa; Portland, Ore; Fairbanks, Alaska; San Diego, Calif; Spokane, Wash; and Tucson, Ariz.

  • diane_q

    It’s disheartening and disappointing, as a resident of D.C. and former resident of Delaware, to witness the cowardly behavior of leaders in the diocese in which I was raised. The church’s bankruptcy claim, however legitimate on the financial side, is a clear reflection of the moral bankruptcy of a diocese which allowed the alleged abuse of many innocent victims by those they trusted most. No amount of money will take away the pain and suffering of these victims, or the faith in God that they and those who love them have lost as a result of the church’s failure to protect them.

  • hoatsie

    When the Church talks about “fair and just settlements for all abuse victims,” it really means, “we need to hide all the assets and documents regarding sexual abuse by clergy so that we can continue to operate as a Mafia-like organization.

  • gabe3

    I live in the diocese of San Diego, CA, and the bishop here did the very same thing – declared bankruptcy the day before trials were to start. Fortunately we had an honorable judge, who was not afraid of the hierarchy of the Catholic church, and she did her own investigating. The diocese was nowhere near bankruptcy!! They simply did not want to release records and informatation that would come out at the trials. She stood her ground, and the trials proceeded. It is really a shame that bishops, cardinals and even the pope would resort to trickery to keep their reputations “clean.” I hope they realize that someday they, too, will have to meet their Maker, and although God is a merciful God, God is also just.

  • Paganplace

    Chhhsh. You’d almost think somehow, they believed in neither their own God nor any of mine, the way they act. Still covering up, still thinking they can chase people out into the world like some kind of moral authority anyway. I say, ‘Listen, Bishop.’ You don’t *get* to decide what the ‘fairest possible treatment’ is of those you’ve victimized. This is where *you* face Justice. Or where you don’t.

  • jajones44

    Victims’ attorney says it accurate, he “called it a “desperate effort to hide the truth from the public and conceal the thousands of pages of scandalous documents” from being made public in court.”How deceptive, manipulative, cunning, callous and self serving can these church leaders be?? Their biggest fear is exposure of their crimes, and being subpoenaed to sit on the witness stand..They can get away with sexually abusing kids, and covering it up. But they can not get away with committing perjury.. That is their biggest fear. There one way ticket straight to jail!!Judy Jones

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