Diocese of Rochester becomes first diocese in New York State to file for bankruptcy in sex abuse scandal fallout

ROCHESTER, N.Y. — The Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester filed for bankruptcy Thursday, the first in New York to seek protection from creditors in bankruptcy court as a part of the decades-long child sex abuse scandal that’s plagued the Catholic Church, according to the Democrat & Chronicle.

The diocese filed the petition for Chapter 11 reorganization Thursday morning, claiming that the financial liabilities — estimated between $100 million and $500 million — exceed the group’s assets — stated as $50 million to $100 million, according to court documents.

The Democrat & Chronicle — a Rochester local newspaper — said the filing does not mean the diocese is out of money, or that churches will close their doors.

The intent of a Chapter 11 filing such as this is to reorganize the diocese’s finances, marshal funds to pay fair compensation to sex-abuse accusers and create a plan for the diocese to continue operations much as they were before.

It’s the same process [former Rochester juggernaut] Eastman Kodak followed in 2012-13 to shed debts and under-performing assets, becoming a smaller but still viable enterprise.

The paper says the diocese serves an estimated 360,000 Catholics. According to the New York State Catholic Conference, there are approximately 7.3 Catholics statewide.

An attorney for more than 80 clergy sexual abuse victims who were sexually abused by priests assigned to the Diocese of Rochester responded to the filing Thursday.

“The Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing by the Diocese of Rochester will not prevent victims from pursuing their rights through the bankruptcy proceeding against the Diocese of Rochester to obtain information about sexual abusers and their complicit supervisors, against relevant parish corporate entities who have not filed for bankruptcy protection and from obtaining information about assets and insurance coverage,” said Mitchell Garabedian. “The victims will become creditors of the bankruptcy estate created by the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing.”

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