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Rockville Centre is fourth NY diocese to file for bankruptcy

shutterstock 412170034 Rows of pews in a church building. / Elena Dijour/Shutterstock

The Diocese of Rockville Centre, New York, announced it was filing for bankruptcy early Thursday morning, becoming the fourth of the state’s eight Latin Catholic dioceses to do so.

In an announcement on Oct. 1, Bishop John Barres said the diocese was filing for Chapter 11 reorganization, following more than 200 new clergy sex abuse lawsuits being filed against the diocese.

The passage of the Child Victims Act (CVA) in New York in 2019 allowed for sex abuse lawsuits to be filed in past cases where survivors had not yet taken action, long after the statute of limitations had expired.

“The diocese was not going to be able to continue to carry out its spiritual, charitable, and educational missions if it were to continue to shoulder the increasingly heavy burden of litigation expenses associated with these cases,” Bishop Barres said in a video announcement.

The CVA originally created a one-year window for these lawsuits to be filed, but due to complications caused by the coronavirus pandemic, the window has been extended to Aug. 14, 2021; Gov. Andrew Cuomo (D) in May originally extended the window until January of 2021, and the state legislature in August moved the window seven months further.

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Several dioceses in the state have filed for bankruptcy due to the large number of lawsuits filed under the law. The Diocese of Rochester declared bankruptcy in Sept., 2019, and the Buffalo diocese followed suit in Feb., 2020; the Diocese of Syracuse also declared bankruptcy in June. The Ogdensburg diocese reported in February that it was considering filing for Chapter 11.

Bishop Barres said on Thursday that the “goal” of the declaration is to ensure that survivors “are afforded just and equitable compensation” in the hope that they can obtain “some measure of healing.”

“Most” diocesan operations and ministries would continue uninterrupted during the reorganization process, he said, adding that he believed the diocese’s “current and future liquidity” would be “sufficient” to cover normal operations and services.

Parishes and schools were not included in the filing, and the diocese is asking the court to halt civil actions against parishes and bring those cases “under the umbrella” of the bankruptcy settlement process.

After the filing, “the diocese will have fewer financial resources to help struggling schools and parishes,” he said.

“I ask each and every Catholic on Long Island during these painful times to embrace the power of the Cross of Jesus Christ and His Divine Mercy, and to help others to carry their crosses, especially survivors of clergy sexual abuse,” Bishop Barres said.

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“Together we ask for the intercession of our Blessed Mother Mary, Mother of the Church, that she continue to intercede for a spirit of holiness in mission in this diocese, and the raising up of a new generation of saints on Long Island to serve the Church and the world.”

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