The Diocese of Wilmington has reached an agreement to pay sexual abuse survivors more than $77.4 million to settle more than 150 abuse claims as part of its efforts to exit bankruptcy.
The agreement, part of Chapter 11 bankruptcy mediation, was reached on Feb. 2, the diocesan newspaper The Dialog reports. It ends pending lawsuits against the diocese and several parishes and commits the diocese to give abuse survivors its files on suspected sexual abusers.
In a Feb. 3 letter to the people of his diocese, Bishop W. Francis Malooly of Wilmington said the agreement means the $3 million judgment against St. Elizabeth Parish will be paid from the settlement and so will spare the church’s parishioners a “tremendous” financial burden.
The agreement also preserves the diocese’s lay employee pension fund. The settlement is $3.4 million higher than the amount the diocese offered in its plan proposed on Jan. 10.
Under the agreement, Bishop Malooly will continue to meet any abuse survivor who wishes to meet with him and will send a letter of apology to survivors and their families. Each of the diocese’s institutions will display a plaque stating that sexual abuse of any kind will not be tolerated.
“It is our hope and prayer that the settlement's monetary and non-monetary terms will begin the healing process for clergy sexual abuse survivors,” the bishop wrote.
In a separate statement, he said the settlement meets the diocese’s goals of compensating survivors while continuing its charitable, educational and spiritual works.
Seven other Catholic U.S. dioceses –in Alaska, Arizona, California, Iowa, Oregon, Washington and Wisconsin–have filed for bankruptcy during the past decade because of similar abuse claims and subsequent costs and settlements.
The settlement does not include sex abuse suits against religious orders in the Diocese of Wilmington. Victims’ attorney Thomas S. Neuberger has said he will seek as much as $80 million from the orders.