A federal bankruptcy judge on Wednesday extended for the fifth time the deadline for the Diocese of Norwich to submit its bankruptcy plan.
The previous deadline was due to expire on Thursday. But two weeks ago, lawyers for the Catholic diocese filed a motion to extend the deadline until January 13, 2023.
On Wednesday, Judge James Tancredi extended the deadline for the diocese to file a plan until November 18.
The diocese’s petition also revealed that 170 complaints have been filed in the case, 142 of which are from people who claim they were sexually assaulted by priests and others in the diocese. He also revealed that the diocese has completed its assessment of the values of the three high schools belonging to the diocese, including St. Bernard in Montville.
In arguing for the extension, diocesan lawyers wrote that the diocese and its creditors, which include a committee that represents alleged victims of sexual assault, negotiated the terms of a bankruptcy plan with two mediation sessions held on 14 and September 15.
They wrote that the diocese believes the mediation sessions “have been productive enough to move all interested parties toward a consensual plan for reorganization,” but after the second mediation session they have yet to reach an agreement on certain conditions.
Calling the case “very complex”, the lawyers also wrote that the diocese hopes one or more additional mediation sessions will lead to consensus on a bankruptcy plan.
They further argued that allowing alleged victims and other claimants to file their own bankruptcy plans would create a costly distraction from litigation caused by competing plans. They wrote that further expansion will allow the diocese to build on the progress made so far and maximize the recovery of survivors of abuse and preserve the mission of the diocese.
However, the 142 victims are expected to receive a fraction of what they could receive if their lawsuits went to trial or were settled. Additionally, the diocese has spent millions of dollars in legal fees for the bankruptcy case.
The diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July 2021 as it faced more than 60 lawsuits from men who claim they were sexually abused as boys by Christian brothers and other members of the staff at Mount Saint John Academy, a school for troubled boys. in Deep River, from 1990 to 2002. Since then, an additional 82 people, whose sexual assault allegations involved not only the school but also diocesan churches, have filed claims in the bankruptcy case. In addition, various other creditors claim part of the property of the diocese.
The bankruptcy process, which freezes lawsuits against the diocese, will assess the assets of the diocese and determine how much each victim will receive in damages. All 51 parishes in the diocese have joined the diocese in seeking bankruptcy protection from sexual abuse claims and will have to contribute funds to the settlement. This would prevent victims from suing parishes in the future. March 15 was the deadline for victims and others to file claims in the case.