EDITORIAL: Albany diocese bankruptcy another ploy to delay legal claims

FILE - Bishop Edward Scharfenberger in July 2022. 

FILE - Bishop Edward Scharfenberger in July 2022. 

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The Roman Catholic Diocese of Albany has a death wish. But not for itself.

For the hundreds of victims of clergy sex abuse who’ve made legal claims under the state’s temporary suspension of the statute of limitations on sex crimes. For the more than 1,100 retirees of St. Clare’s Hospital awaiting compensation for their stolen pensions.

The church’s calculated efforts to delay settlements in lawsuits, to hide its assets, to set up an inadequate compensation mediation process, and now to file for bankruptcy protection, are all elements in its long-term game of attrition.

The church is counting on plaintiffs to die off before it can be forced to compensate them adequately for their claims.

On Wednesday, the Roman Catholic Diocese joined a long list of other dioceses around the country that have resorted to bankruptcy as the ultimate shield to avoid paying off victims of its own malfeasance and cover-ups.

Unable to continue making multi-million-dollar payouts to its victims, and with many others waiting for their day in court, the local diocese —with access to the Mother Church’s incalculable assets of cash, real estate and art around the globe — is hiding behind the excuse that it won’t be able to make its next payroll if it doesn’t take this extraordinary step to protect its assets.

Bankruptcy court proceedings of this magnitude ordinarily take many years to resolve, years that St. Clare’s retirees and older victims of sex abuse don’t have. The bankruptcy filing will stall the settlement of cases, while the victims become more elderly, more sick and pass away.

Filing bankruptcy at this point is cynical. It’s calculated. And it’s probably going to work.

How do we know? Because it’s already worked in other places, including here in New York.

Three years after the Buffalo diocese filed for bankruptcy, none of the 900 or so victims who’ve filed claims have received compensation, as lawyers from both sides negotiate settlements, the Buffalo News reported last month.

Because the diocese can’t legally compensate anyone until the bankruptcy court reaches an agreement with the creditor’s committee and the deal is approved by a judge, none of the victims will be getting a dime.

The paper said it remains unclear how far along negotiations are.

In the meantime, victims have died and others are dying or becoming ill, raising questions about whether they’ll ever see any compensation for the abuses they’ve endured. Bankruptcy, then, acts as an incentive to other victims to settle for lesser amounts just to get something.

It’s all part of the bigger plan.

This scenario has played out in similar fashion many, many times around the country.

The church staves off its financial problems while it waits for its victims to die.

And those still living are victimized one last time.

Categories: Editorial, Opinion, Opinion

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