Rochester diocese says it has acted in ‘good faith’ in mediation with abuse survivors

By Joe Bukuras for CNA

Cathedral of the Sacred Heart, Rochester, New York / DanielPenfield via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 3.0)

Washington D.C., Jun 11, 2021 / 10:02 am (CNA).

The Diocese of Rochester on Thursday said it has been acting in “good faith,” in response to claims by clergy abuse survivors that the diocese is stalling in bankruptcy mediation proceedings.

“The Diocese has acted in good faith over the course of multiple mediation sessions and is committed to continuing those good faith negotiations with its insurers and the Creditors Committee,” a spokesperson for the diocese told CNA in a statement on Thursday.

The diocese, which filed for bankruptcy in September 2019, had entered into negotiations with victims of sex abuse during the bankruptcy proceedings.

A bankruptcy court judge in 2019 ordered mediation talks between the parties. There have been 475 abuse claims filed in the bankruptcy proceedings. Some victims claimed that the diocese is intentionally prolonging the talks and pushing off a solution.

“They’re waiting for us to say, ‘Okay, we don’t care, let’s get this over with,'” Carol Dupre, a sex abuse victim in the case, told 13WHAM. Attorneys for 20 survivors are now pushing for their cases to be moved to a state court for trial, 13WHAM reported.

In court papers filed on Tuesday, attorneys for the unsecured creditors committee argued that court-ordered mediation has been unsuccessful and the diocese has not offered acceptable compensation.

“The Committee has attempted to mediate a reasonable and appropriate settlement with the Diocese and its insurers. However, to date, the mediation has not been successful,” the attorneys stated.

“The Diocese and its insurers have not offered an amount remotely acceptable as fair compensation to Sexual Abuse Claimants. Therefore, the Committee has concluded that the logjams of the mediation can best be addressed through litigation of a sample group of cases in the state courts that are best suited to adjudicate sexual abuse claims in the State of New York,” the filing stated.

The Diocese responded to the motion on Thursday, saying that continued negotiations are necessary.

“The Diocese believes that continued dialogue and negotiation among the Diocese, its insurers and the Creditors Committee that is guided by reasonable and realistic expectations on the part of all concerned and a dedication to swift and just resolution for all survivors is the best and proper course to benefit survivors,” the diocese stated.

If the cases are moved to state court, jury trials could result in the exposure of sensitive information of the church. Prosecuting attorneys say the Diocese is using bankruptcy to hide such sensitive information, 13WHAM reported.

Citing its goal mentioned in the September 2019 bankruptcy filing, the diocese reaffirmed its desire to “bring this matter to a conclusion as soon as possible in order to continue the work of healing and reconciliation, both for survivors and our diocesan family.”

The diocese’s legal team will be afforded the opportunity to make its case in court before a decision is made on the motion to move the cases to another court.


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