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Diocese of Rochester Submits $35 Million Bankruptcy Plan to Resolve Sex Abuse Cases

By Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP

The Diocese of Rochester has submitted a plan to the federal bankruptcy court seeking its approval to resolve nearly 500 abuse claims for $35 million.  A hearing on the matter is scheduled for July 9, 2021.

In September 2019, the Diocese of Rochester filed for bankruptcy protection as it was being sued by hundreds of abuse survivors after the Child Victim’s Act had been signed into law the previous January.

In addition to protecting their assets, a bankruptcy filing also benefits the Diocese because a successful bankruptcy filing will allow the Diocese to maintain its priest files and other documents related to the history of priest sexual abuse in the Diocese without any disclosure to the public.

Recently, a contingent of abuse survivors petitioned the court to allow their cases to be tried in state court in front of a jury of their peers.

Prior to the bankruptcy filing, at least 245 lawsuits were filed under the Child Victims Act named the Rochester Catholic Diocese. Taken together, they allege a stunning abuse of power – some of it involving only a handful of priests.

Five of them have been accused by a combined 105 victims.

Four victims say that while attending St. Bridget/Immaculate Conception as children, they were sexually abused by Rev. Francis Vogt. Over 45 years, Vogt also served in parishes in Elmira, Palmyra and Irondeqouit. Vogt has been accused of abusing at least 46 children.

Rev. Robert O’Neill faced 24 allegations from 24 individual survivors prior to the bankruptcy filing.  In O’Neill’s case, two former Rochester bishops were aware of the allegations and did nothing about it.

In 1996, Rev. Eugene Emo was arrested for abusing a mentally-challenged adult male. He served six months in prison. The diocese acknowledged that before his arrest, he took a leave of absence for almost a year for “a personal problem.”

At least 12 CVA suits named him.

Because of the bankruptcy filing, none of these lawsuits will be tried in court.  They will be handled by the bankruptcy court and the public will never know the full extent to which these priests preyed on children or how the Diocese of Rochester allowed them to continue to function as priests in spite of their criminal behavior.

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Rheingold Giuffra Ruffo Plotkin & Hellman LLP are champions of justice for the injured. Contact the firm today to schedule a free initial case consultation with one of our qualified New York child sexual abuse attorneys.

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