Diocese of Camden files bankruptcy; cites COVID-19 and clergy sexual abuse lawsuits
The Diocese of Camden has filed for bankruptcy, citing revenue losses because of the millions it paid out to clergy abuse victims and the pandemic. The filing on Thursday comes after New Jersey eased its civil statute of limitations in 2019 to make it easier for victims of sexual abuse at the hands of the clergy to sue for damages.
John Honrychs kept his abuse as a child a secret for years before getting the courage to come forward with what happened to him in the diocese in the 1970s.
“It’s not just my story. There’s a lot of people like me. I put my wife and children through a lot of discomfort because I kept my mouth shut for decades,” he says.
In a letter to parishioners in the diocese, Bishop Dennis Sullivan explained that the decision to file bankruptcy came as a result of two factors: COVID-19 and having to pay out more than $8 million to victims of clergy abuse. The bishop said in the letter, "If it were just the pandemic, or just the costs of the Victims Compensation Program, we could likely weather the financial impact; however, the combination of these factors has made that impracticable."
“I think bankruptcy is an acknowledgment by the church and by the diocese that, ‘I know you’re out there. We know that there are legitimate claims and potential lawsuits against us because of negligence and because of the way we handled some of these priests,’” says victim-survivor attorney Jay Mascolo.
Mascolo says that the victims will now have to file their claims in bankruptcy court to be compensated. A date will be chosen when those claims will need to be filed by. All current lawsuits will be put on hold.
Honrychs says that he wants his fellow victim survivors to know that they will be believed.
“Don’t live in doubt because you didn’t do wrong. You didn’t, as the victim, do wrong. That’s why you’re the victim,” he says.
The diocese says the decision to file will have no direct effect on schools, parishes or pension plans.
The Associated Press wire services contributed to this report.