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Diocese of Rockville Centre Files for Bankruptcy, Stopping Sex Abuse Lawsuits

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo & Plotkin LLP

The Diocese of Rockville Centre was not able to overturn the Child Victims Act in order to escape responsibility for the 200 child sex abuse lawsuits filed against them. So, they did the next best thing – file for federal bankruptcy protection. The result is similar-the lawsuits will stop and the Diocese of Rockville Centre will be allowed to maintain its priest documents in secrecy without the scrutiny of the courts and juries. 

In the press conference announcing the bankruptcy filing, diocesan officials blamed the surge of lawsuits and COVID-19 for the bankruptcy petition. However, the Diocese has been attempting to avoid the courtroom ever since the Child Victims Act was signed into law in January 2019.

A Long Battle for Abuse Survivors of the Diocese of Rockville Centre

For the survivors of sexual abuse in the Diocese of Rockville Centre, the battle is not a new one. In 2003, a grand jury was convened to investigate the actions of the Diocese concerning the sexual abuse of minors. 

The Jury Reports conclusions were particularly damning:

         “The grand jury concludes that the history of the Diocese of Rockville Centre demonstrates that as an institution they are incapable of properly handling issues relating to the sexual abuse of children by priests…The response of priests in the diocesan hierarchy to allegations of criminal sexual abuse was not pastoral,” the report said. ”In fact, although there was a written policy that set a pastoral tone, it was a sham. The diocese failed to follow the policy from its inception, even at the most rudimentary level.”

In reporting on the Grand Jury Report publication, the NY Times concluded, “A Suffolk County grand jury accused Roman Catholic Church officials on Long Island yesterday of protecting scores of pedophile priests for decades by using sham policies and a bogus ”intervention team” to trick and silence victims, cover up crimes, avoid scandals and hold down financial consequences.

The panel said the Diocese of Rockville Centre — the nation’s sixth largest, with 1.3 million Catholics in 134 parishes in Nassau and Suffolk Counties — had protected at least 58 abusive priests with aggressive tactics that purported to help victims and their families but that actually used intimidation, claims of confidentiality, hush payments and other means to avoid lawsuits and publicity.”

The Diocese of Camden in New Jersey also filed for bankruptcy protection yesterday. As more dioceses and archdioceses choose bankruptcy as a tactic to avoid lawsuits and the attention of courtroom testimony, the Catholic Church has chosen to protect the institution rather than protect children. 

If you or a loved one has been the victim of child sexual abuse, please contact our knowledgeable and compassionate child sexual abuse attorneys to discuss your legal options.

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