Bankruptcy resolution plan could upset parishioners


CAMDEN — The Diocese of Camden has announced a plan to distribute $90 million to survivors of clergy sex abuse, well above its original offer of $10 million in a bankruptcy action.

But lawyers for victims of sexual abuse quickly rejected the proposal.

“It’s just woefully inadequate,” said Jeffrey Prol, a committee attorney representing more than 300 people with sexual abuse allegations.

The two sides have repeatedly clashed over how much funding to provide to victims of sexual abuse, with attorneys for the plaintiffs alleging that the diocese undervalued its assets to reduce its exposure.

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The proposed fund, if approved by the US bankruptcy court, would be used to resolve some 300 claims, the diocese said in a statement late Wednesday.

The Diocese of Camden is offering $90 million to settle clergy sex abuse claims.

The diocese would provide “the bulk” of the money, but its parishes “will also contribute a part,” the statement said. He said the joint payment would total $60 million, but did not provide any additional details.

He acknowledged that the proposal “will cause concern to many parishioners because of its size. Yet it is necessary. »

“While this settlement may result in some restrictions for the diocese, it ultimately allows parishes, schools and ministries in the diocese to continue their important work,” the statement read.

But lawyers for sexual abuse survivors said the plan would harm victims of clergy sexual abuse.

Prol claimed that the Diocese of South Jersey has assets worth $1 billion, with up to $250 million in funds readily available.

He also argued that insurers in the diocese, which contribute $30 million to the plan, could provide more through policies valued at $190 million.

“The committee (for sexual abuse claimants) opposes this proposal,” said the attorney from Roseland, Essex County.

Jeff Anderson, a Minnesota attorney for survivors of sexual abuse, called the plan “a brazen legal maneuver using the bankruptcy code to exclude survivors and expedite a self-serving scheme without the survivors’ consent or contribution.”

Diocese filed for Chapter 11 protection from creditors in October 2020, citing the financial burden of sexual abuse lawsuits and the pandemic.

He initially offered $10 million to settle the sexual abuse claims, an amount that rose to $53 million in October 2021.

The size of the proposed fund was “determined through the extensive negotiation process and analysis of previous clergy sexual abuse cases,” the diocese said in a statement.

Under the plan, the statement said, the diocese and its parishes would provide $30 million in cash, “available on day one, and additional payments of $10 million on the first, second and third anniversaries of plan confirmation. “.

The diocese previously said it paid $8 million to settle about 70 claims while participating in a program created by the state’s five Catholic dioceses between June 2019 and July 2021.

He also paid $11 million to other victims from the mid-1990s to the late 2010s.

In its statement, the diocese acknowledged “once there was blindness” to clergy sex abuse.

But he claimed that “situations like this are no longer handled in any form but transparently, both through education to prevent abuse and immediate notification of law enforcement if a future incident occurs. abuse should be reported”.

The diocese serves approximately 475,000 Catholics in six South Jersey counties.

This story will be updated.

Jim Walsh covers public safety, economic development and other topics for the Courier-Post, the Burlington County Times and the Daily Journal.

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