Diocese in Connecticut files for bankruptcy amid abuse lawsuits

The Cathedral of Saint Patrick in Norwich, Conn. Credit: Farragutful via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0) The Cathedral of Saint Patrick in Norwich, Conn. Credit: Farragutful via Wikimedia (CC BY-SA 4.0)

The Diocese of Norwich filed for bankruptcy Thursday amid several dozen sexual abuse lawsuits filed related to a former school administered by the diocese.

Bishop Michael Cote, in a July 15 video message, said that the bankruptcy will “centralize all litigation and oversee a settlement that ensures that all survivors are included and treated fairly,” noting that “any settlement will be determined based on the assets of the Diocese.”

“Over the past two years, our financial and legal advisors have studied our situation and concluded that a Chapter 11 filing was the only way to ensure an equitable settlement for abuse survivors, help us manage litigation expenses, and carry out our essential mission and ministries,” Bishop Cote explained. 

More than 60 lawsuits have been filed related to alleged abuse at Mount Saint John School, a former residential school for troubled boys an hour south of Hartford. Bishop Cote described the school, which was funded and audited by the state, as a “ministry” of the diocese.   

Cote stated that all diocesan operations and ministries will “continue without interruption.”

“All employees will continue to be paid their normal wages. Benefit programs will also continue, uninterrupted. Our vendors will be paid for all goods and services and ordinary operations will continue,” he wrote. 

“The practice of our Catholic faith and administration of the Sacraments will not be affected by this legal filing. However, the Diocese will certainly need to prioritize the charitable missions that are essential to our Diocese and parishioners – the work of the Church must continue.”

The Norwich diocese listed 43 priests who had "allegations of substance" against them in 2019. 

Dozens of dioceses across the country have declared bankruptcy in recent years, generally amid sexual abuse lawsuits. 

Notably, in New York, half of the state’s Latin rite dioceses have declared bankruptcy amid New York's Child Victims Act, which opened a one-year window for adults in the state who were sexually abused as children, leading to the filing of hundreds of lawsuits. The window is set to expire next month.

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