The Diocese of Norwich has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy and church officials say it is a move to help manage a response to nearly 60 lawsuits filed against the Diocese over alleged abuse at the Mount Saint John School.
"...it became clear that the Diocese could not continue to carry out its spiritual, charitable, and educational missions while also bearing the potential costs of litigation associated with these cases," Most Rev. Michael Cote, Bishop of the Diocese of Norwich, said in a video to the community.
NBC Connecticut has previously covered some of the lawsuits against the Diocese.
The lawsuits concern complaints about alleged abuse that occurred at Mount Saint John School, a former ministry and residential school for at-risk children in Deep River. They allege abuse by a number of clergy and staff members that the men say occurred repeatedly over a period of more than a decade from the mid-1980s through 2000.
Six survivors are represented by attorney Kelly Reardon.
“Anytime an organization that is being sued declares bankruptcy it’s not good news," Reardon said.
In the federal filing, the Diocese claims it has estimated liabilities of $50 to $100 million. But that’s more than the estimated assets of $10 to $50 million.
“We're hopeful that there will be some transparency so we can ensure that the survivors have access to every penny that they can possibly obtain because they're owed it. They have been through hell in their lives," Reardon added.
Thursday’s bankruptcy filing creates a lot of unknowns and throws a curveball for the now dozens of survivors who have come forward, including those represented by Reardon.
“They were collectively upset to find out that the process is going to take longer than they had anticipated. But they are tough and they are willing to hang in there," Reardon said.
In 2019, the Diocese named 43 priests who had "allegations of substance" against them.
By filing for bankruptcy, Cote said the Diocese will be able to centralize litigation to work out settlements. Other religious institutions have also undergone similar reorganizations in response to abuse allegations to compensate potential victims.
Cote said services and ministries will continue without interruption during the reorganization process. Employees will still be paid and benefits programs will continue.
"We will work diligently with all survivors, creditors, and ministries to maintain open communication while we work toward a settlement and a restructuring plan that includes a comprehensive resolution for survivors," Cote said.
Attorney Reardon said it’s hard to know how long this will play out for, but they remain hopeful there will be a settlement.