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Delaware Catholic diocese bankruptcy filing delays clergy abuse trials

[JURIST] The Catholic Diocese of Wilmington Delaware [diocesan website] on Sunday filed for Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy protection [press release], one day before eight clergy sexual abuse trials were set to begin. The filing will delay the trials, which were scheduled to take place in the Kent County Superior Court. The lawyer representing some of the alleged sexual abuse victims has criticized the move saying that it is an attempt to cover up the scandal. In the press release issued by the diocese, Bishop W. Francis Malooly said:

The Chapter 11 filing is in no way intended to dodge responsibility for past criminal misconduct by clergy – or for mistakes made by Diocesan authorities. Nor does the bankruptcy process enable the Diocese to avoid or minimize its responsibility to victims of abuse. Instead, the Chapter 11 filing will enable the Diocese to meet its obligations head-on and fulfill its responsibility to all victims.

The sexual abuse claims were brought under the Delaware Civil Statute of Limitations for Child Sexual Abuse [text] law that created a two-year window that allows claims to be filed regardless of whether the statute of limitations has expired. Of the more than 100 claims that were filed, four have been settled. Wilmington is the seventh Catholic diocese to file for Chaper 11 bankruptcy protection.

Last December, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Springfield, Massachusetts [diocesan website] announced [JURIST report] that it had settled 59 sexual abuse claims against the church through voluntary arbitration. In August 2008, the Roman Catholic Diocese of Providence [diocesan website] reached a settlement [JURIST report] in four abuse suits. In September 2007, the Catholic Diocese of Pittsburgh [diocesan website] announced [JURIST report] the creation of a $1.25 million fund, and the Catholic Diocese of San Diego [diocesan website] announced an agreement [JURIST report] to pay $198.1 million to settle claims of sexual abuse by their clergy. A Los Angeles Superior Court in July 2007 approved a $660 million settlement [JURIST report] between the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Los Angeles [diocesan website] and plaintiffs in 508 outstanding clergy sex abuse lawsuits. In January 2007, the Catholic Diocese of Spokane [diocesan website] agreed to settle molestation claims [JURIST report] against its own priests for $48 million as part of its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization plan.

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