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Wilmington becomes seventh U.S. diocese to file for bankruptcy.

Too many sexual-abuse settlements, not enough money, says the bishop.

The Chapter 11 filing in U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware lists assets of as much as $100 million and liabilities of as much as $500 million for the nonprofit.The diocese encompasses 58 parishes, 21 missions and 27 schools in Delaware and on Maryland s Eastern Shore. The diocese, founded in 1869 in Wilmington, has 126 diocesan priests.This is a painful decision, one that I had hoped and prayed I would never have to make, Bishop W. Francis Malooly said in a statement. However, after careful consideration and after consultation with my close advisors and counselors, I believe we have no other choice, and that filing for Chapter 11 offers the best opportunity, given finite resources, to provide the fairest possible treatment of all victims of sexual abuse by priests of our Diocese. Our hope is that Chapter 11 proceedings will enable us to fairly compensate all victims through a single process established by the Bankruptcy Court.

Read the rest of the News Journal storyright here.

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Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.



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It's surely notable that this bankruptcy filing comes at the end of a two-year moratorium on the statute of limitations, which resulted in a flood of new lawsuits and an enormous increase in liabilities for the diocese.

Ho hum........ the news report, that is.

Imagine the respect that a bishop would get by throwing open the books and auctioning off some pricey cathedral in order to pay abuse victims instead of acting like lawyers, protecting assets before protecting people?pipe dreams, I know.

They really wouldn't have to auction off pricey cathedrals (and the market for those would be ???). Rather, getting rid of episcopal palaces and limousines, overbuilt parish rectories, unused schools and convents, etc. would be good for 2 reasons (1) raise cash and (2) eliminate this attachment to displays of worldly wealth. Also, anyone who refers to a Prince of The Church should be put to work in a Catholic Worker shelter for 2 years to see who the REAL princes and princesses of the Church are!The sooner that the clerical leadership learns to live in the manner of most of their parishioners, the quicker they will be back on the road to being taken seriously and possibly even earning (this time) respect. Until then -----

I do indeed realize that the window legislation passed in 2007 makes the current lawsuits possible, and still consider it right and just to give past survivors access to the court. Perpetrators have been identified, and bishops learn that there is no free pass to criminally endangering children. Their fear of what a jury might render in judgment is well-founded, and very indicative of a consciousness of guilt by the Church.Usually filed within hours of trial, bankruptcies are more often about keeping documents secret, and bishops off the stand under oath. I hope Delaware will not engage in practices of lying about assets (to the edge of being in contempt of court), or fraudently conveying them so they are out of reach of any settlement. The machinations of dioceses can be brilliantly creative.Of course this stops all document disclosure, and put survivors through an emotional wringer just when they had a chance to find out who knew what when. There is a grievous prior debt long overdue, and survivors should have first claim. How wonderful that Delawares bishops and diocese are not exempt from the consequences of their actions. Laity pay, and there is nothing wrong with that. We enabled a hierarchy by our deference, and are part of the Body of Christ. It is the bishops and priests who turned the other way who deserve our censure, not survivors who tell the truth at great personal risk. Congratulations to them for their courage and persistence. I am sorry that bankruptcy is an out. Preferable to have trials, learn the truth, see what true judgments should really be, and then negotiate them to what is genuinely possible. I hope non-financial terms like release of documents can still be ordered by the court. End the cover-ups, pay up; then and only then move forward with head high, based on truth.

If If were a dues-paying Catholic in Wilmington, I'd immediately set up an escrow account or divert my contributions to other causes not controlled by the bishop."We enabled a hierarchy by our deference..."I'd just add "and our indifference."As a friend once reminded me, the opposite of love is not hate but, rather, indifference.

"Laity pay, and there is nothing wrong with that. We enabled a hierarchy by our deference, and are part of the Body of Christ. It is the bishops and priests who turned the other way who deserve our censure, not survivors who tell the truth at great personal risk."Then the bishops and priests can (and should) be subject to the remedies provided by criminal and civil law.I will state, categorically and without qualification, that I have enabled nobody to sexually abuse minors, either by my deference, indifference or any other means. And I daresay hundreds of thousands of members of the Wilmington diocese can make the same claim with a perfectly clean conscience.The laity are being asked to pay, not because they have an iota of culpability in this evil, but because in the aggregate their pockets are deep. I guess that is financially advantageous to the victims and their attorneys, but it is unjust. It also creates a collateral class of new victims - those whose jobs will be eliminated, those who will not receive pay increases (or will be given pay cuts), and those who need services and pastoral care but will not be able to receive them because the position no longer exists, the program has been shut down, the parish or school has been shuttered. Few or none of those parish and diocesan employees, or their families, contributed in any way to the abuse of minors, either. It's not okay.

"Then the bishops and priests can (and should) be subject to the remedies provided by criminal and civil law."Yes, there are consequences that should pertain, but they have not because of the clever actions of bishops and priests to make sure they did not. In a strange way though, the law has come around, and now at last some of its penalties are operative, but unfortunately not directly to them. Incredibly, people still go to Red Masses presided over by complicit bishops (the irony), attend court for abusers, give standing ovations to those suspended from ministry...Where is the cry by laity to hold hierarchy accountable, civilly, criminally, or even just in loss of promotions or removal from office? The passivity and silence are monumental.We are part of the Church, which proclaims we are our brother's keeper. Are we all in this together or not, as members of the Body of Christ? That was the claim of Skylstad in Spokane as he solicited contributions toward a settlement. It's not MY fault just sits poorly with me. (Christ didn't say, I'm not at fault, so goodbye.) I believe the anger at survivors is misdirected, when its rightful target is in rectory and chancery. It is wrong to blame past victims, who too often find no redress at all. Only about 20% report abuse.I regret certainly the financial consequences for laity, but I do feel a collective responsibility to address the prior victim, whose injuries were caused by Church officials. The Church is not the cause of poverty in society, but rightly tries to address the matter. How much more should it take ownership of the effects of grievous wrongs people suffered at its hands? Life, and society at large, are not ordered so that culpability is tied in a one-on-one connection with its consequences. Would that it were so.Those responsible for the financial meltdown in the last year or so, either in Congress or the executive suite, are not the ones on the unemployment line, much as we would prefer that. My taxes will be increased to help them, and rightly so. But *I* didn't take out a fraudulent mortgage, or package junk securities...Jim, the impact on those you cite is painful. I do not minimize it. Evil does have broad consequences. We, clergy and laity as the People of God, will go forward more honorably if those heinously molested, with terribly-marred lives, are not simply left behind.

Jim, I disagree with your view that the laity have no culpability in this institutional mess. In fact, Catholics who still give financial support to the church continue to enable an ecclesial system that lacks transparency and accountability. They continue to prop up a clerical culture that elevates the ordained and subordinates the laity. If the law can go after Catholics in Wilmington and elsewhere because they have deep pockets, I say "All the better." Indeed, when I was in boot camp nearly forty years ago, our DI made one point very clear from day one: When one guy effs up, all will be made to pay the consequences! There's nothing like peer pressure to make the miscreants get their act together --- or else!Fact is we have a pope and like-minded bishops who are trying to revive a church culture that was actually conducive to the growth and preservation of our collective enabling. After all, who would have expected that this wonderful, self-giving priest holding the blessed eucharist on the sacred altar would even think of molesting little boys or girls in the rectory or wherever???We enabled by our accepting things as is. After all, they worked!

"We are part of the Church, which proclaims we are our brothers keeper. Are we all in this together or not, as members of the Body of Christ? "Yes, you're right - we're all members of the Body of Christ. ALL of us - victims, advocates, perpetrators, enablers, Catholic attorneys, Catholic judges, Catholic legislators, Catholic reporters and editors, Jesus of Nazareth, and people like me (the vast majority) who are not directly involved in any of these terrible crimes.And you're right -- obligations accrue to the rest of us on behalf of the victims. First and foremost, is the obligation to not countenance abuse - to speak up when we see it happening, and to keep speaking up if nothing happens from speaking up the first time.We can't make things completely right for the victims, but we can do our best to help them heal. Dioceses should be raising funds to help victims. I'd think that many, many Catholics would contribute to defray the costs of therapy, medical and psychiatric treatment, and whatever else can be done to help the victims. And I'm sure there are many other things we could do to love them - you probably know of things that I'm not even thinking of.And you're right that we shouldn't countenance opaque and capricious financial and administrative practices by bishops and diocesan officials. It's the church's money and property, and we, the church, are entitled to a full and honest accounting.Lawsuits unavoidably work against the peace that should reign within the Body of Christ by pitting members against one another. They tear the Body apart. That is not to say they are always the wrong thing. I know you believe that they have brought into the light much that was hiddin in darkness before, and I should acknowledge that is a good thing, and I do. But they are not an unmixed blessing. There are other ways.

Jim - that has to be the "strongest" statement I have seen you make on any topic. Carolyn, as usual, as both experience and facts.Here is a well written summation of the issues: have to admit that I am conflicted on the catholic in the pew - frustrated with a majority who are tired of these same old stories and want to move on; yet, there is basically little to no change in the clerical system. Do we support that system with our financial pledges or is it really church = local parish and that is who I support. Would agree that reactions by many catholics outrage me - reports of a standing ovation for Wildenbourg at his Superior, WI parish (does anyone know what he said; did he tell the "whole" truth? who knows)Here is a new case in Scranton - but then I would believe anything about Scranton- link to parishioner reaction: had a long standing case settled in Dallas two weeks ago - no headlines; lost in the back pages of the Metro section. Yet, the victims of this Monsignor and buddy of previous bishops, damaged numerous lives in the 1970's and 1980's - yet, he was repeatedly made a pastor and then a monsignor. He had at least one associate who has been found guilty of pedophilia. When the first victims alleged these crimes, the parish (esp. one very outspoken group) rallied around him. The diocese (because they knew the truth) quickly suspended him and moved him out of the parish. The intense reactions for or against went on in that parish for well over a year until the evidence clearly showed that he was guilty. All I rmember is an angry, power hungry, very conservative pastor who kept that parish in the 1950's. Sad.

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