The Diocese of Rochester, New York, is hoping to finalize a plan that would pay $55 million to 475 victims of sexual abuse by clergy, religious, and laity in the diocese. 

In a Nov. 3 letter to the faithful, Rochester Bishop Salvatore Matano announced that the diocese had filed a motion in U.S. Bankruptcy Court seeking approval of an agreement between sexual abuse survivors and the diocese. 

The diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in September 2019 in an attempt to reach a settlement with hundreds of sexual abuse survivors. The new proposition would bring the yearslong process to a conclusion for survivors and the diocese.

The agreement, called a Restructuring Support Agreement, would establish a trust funded by the diocese and its related institutions. The agreement also mentions that insurance providers that provided coverage during the time of the abuse might provide funds as well.

The diocesean funds that are contributing to the $55 million include the diocese’s “unrestricted” funds in addition to funds provided by its related institutions, such as parishes. For parishioners who wish to donate to the diocese but do not wish to have the funds be used for the trust, a “restricted” gift can be given, according to a frequently asked questions fact sheet released by the diocese. Similarly, money donated to the diocese’s Catholic Ministries Appeal would not be used to fund the trust.

The diocese has not ruled out selling or merging parishes to make the payments. 

“We believe that this Restructuring Support Agreement represents the fairest approach for the survivors and most viable path forward for the diocese and its related Catholic entities to continue our shared mission of healing and reconciliation,” Matano said in his letter.

“Once again, while I know my words may seem hollow, simply repeating a rehearsed apology, I renew with sincerity my deep apology to the survivors of sexual abuse. The history of sexual abuse of children in our Church has caused tremendous pain, hardship, alienation, and understandable anger,” he said. 

“It seriously has impacted survivors, their families, our priests and others in diocesan ministries who had no part in these egregious acts. This chapter in the life of our Church has also impacted everyone who has felt their own faith shaken by those who violated a sacred trust to protect the vulnerable and live according to the teachings of Jesus Christ,” Matano said. 

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If approved by the court, the survivors and “other parties of interest” will vote on the plan before it is approved, according to the frequently asked questions sheet. The diocese, which is in its third year of Chapter 11 bankruptcy, is hoping to have the agreement approved by mid-summer to early fall 2023.