ROCHESTER, N.Y. (WROC) — The Rochester Catholic Diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Thursday.
Many lawyers, sexual abuse survivors, and Catholic churchgoers alike didn’t seem surprised by the news. They all have different reactions to it, though, with some saying it’s a stunt by the church to silence survivors and others saying this is the logical way to handle all the lawsuits.
Brian De Lefranier said when he was an altar boy in the 1980s he was abused by a priest at Saint Andrew’s Church. To him, Thursday’s news meant he won’t have to look his abuser in the eye ever again.
“I definitely don’t want the Diocese to think that this is just the solve all to their problems because they may, in fact, feel that it is because it’s going to relieve them of the monetary whatever, but it’s leaving a trail of destruction in its wake,” said De Lefranier.
De Lefranier also said he knows some survivors still want their day in court. Steve Boyd is a lawyer working to make that happen.
“In my mind, there was a betrayal by the priest who could’ve been a mentor but instead was a predator. There was a betrayal by the church administration who could have called the police on these predators and instead protected the predators and not the children and now they’re attempting to cut these survivors at the knees before their story can truthfully be told,” said Boyd.
Siobhan O’Connor is the former assistant to Bishop Malone in Buffalo and the first whistleblower there. She said this filing delays justice.
“These are people who want the truth to be known, their own truth that they’ve lived for so many years they want it to be known to our community and yet again a Diocese is trying to keep that truth from those survivors,” O’Connor said.
Some Catholic churchgoers from Saint Mary’s said they hope survivors get what they need, but the bankruptcy filing won’t affect their donations to the church.
“It will have an impact but you know what? The church is the people and we will be here and we will have our God,” said Correne Wirt.
Jean Milne agreed, and said, “Benedict said the church will get smaller but it will get stronger.”
Donations to the Catholic church go to the Catholic Ministries Appeal. Wirt said the bankruptcy filing wasn’t mentioned at mass on Thursday, except to pray for the survivors which she said they always do.
Milne said as the churches are getting smaller, they’re starting to combine.