Category Archives: Vatican

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League states the following: Crimes of a sexual nature need not be reported to the police, just the legal department

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League states the following: Crimes of a sexual nature need not be reported to the police, just the legal department

Bill Donohue is at it again, defending the indefensible and claiming that crimes of a sexual nature need not be reported to the police, just the legal department. This proves beyond a shadow of a doubt, that Bill Donohue will willing violate FEDERAL AND STATE LAWS that say YOU MUST report these crimes to the police. In his latest diatribe in defense of Lafayette Bishop Michael Jarrell for not publishing the names of priests accused of a sexual offense in The Advertiser on August 23, 2014. This is the article:

From the link: https://www.theadvertiser.com/story/opinion/2014/08/23/bishop-deserves-praise-protecting-priets-identities/14500535/

Kudos to Lafayette Bishop Michael Jarrell for not publishing the names of priests accused of a sexual offense. His decision is identical to the one that the leaders of every other institution, public and private, have long come to: It is unethical to do so. Why should the Catholic Church be any different?

A reporter came to my office a few years ago asking me about this issue. Specifically, she asked how I could defend a bishop for not posting the names of accused priests on his diocesan website. I immediately asked for her boss’ name and phone number. She wanted to know why. “Because I am going to report you for sexually harassing me, and then I want to see if your name is going to be posted on the website of your cable news employer.”

She got the point.

I am the CEO of the Catholic League. If someone called me making an accusation against one of my staff members, I can assure you I would not call the cops. No employer would. I would do the same as everyone else: I would conduct my own internal investigation, and would only go to the authorities if I thought the charge was authentic.

Bill Donohue of the Catholic League

There is a profound difference among an accusation, a credible accusation, a substantiated accusation and a finding of guilt. The assumption behind all three levels of accusations is that the accused is innocent, yet this seems not to matter much anymore, especially when the accused is a priest.

The leader of a professional victims’ group maintains that we need to know the names of the credibly accused priests in Lafayette so that parents can protect their children. Nonsense.

Of the 15 priests, seven are dead, five have moved away, and three are retired. None is in ministry. Moreover, all the accusations stem from alleged offenses dating back prior to 1984. In short, it is more than hype to suggest that kids are in danger — it is expressly demagogic, designed to whip up public sentiment against priests.

What is really sickening about this issue is that so many decent and innocent priests have had their reputations ruined by vicious accusers who remain anonymous. No one demands that we make public the names of the accusers, but somehow we are all supposed to know the identity of the accused.

Correction: Only when it comes to priests are demands made to publish the names of the accused.

The New York Times has a business ethics policy that reads, “Any employee who becomes aware of any conduct that he or she believes to be prohibited by this Policy or a violation of the law … is expected to promptly report the facts forming the basis of that belief or knowledge to any supervisor of the legal department.”

In other words, crimes of a sexual nature need not be reported to the police, just the legal department. If this policy is good for reporters, why isn’t it good for bishops? The best part of the Times’ policy says that those who make false accusations are subject “to discipline up to and including termination.” The bishops should adopt this policy immediately.

I am so proud of Bishop Jarrell for acting fairly and courageously.

— Bill Donohue is the president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights.

Rape-accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal must face trial: Kerala High Court

Rape-accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal must face trial: Kerala High Court. The prosecution had argued in court that there’s ample evidence against the Bishop in the case and that the latter was simply trying to delay the proceedings. Both in the FIR as well as in the secret statement provided by the victim, there’s clear evidence of the Bishop’s acts, it said.
https://indianexpress.com/article/india/rape-accused-bishop-franco-mulakkal-must-face-trial-kerala-high-court-6494465/

The Kerala High Court Tuesday dismissed the discharge plea of Franco Mulakkal, the deposed Catholic Bishop accused of raping a nun, ruling that he must face trial in the case.

The prosecution had argued in court that there’s ample evidence against the Bishop in the case and that the latter was simply trying to delay the proceedings. Both in the FIR as well as in the secret statement provided by the victim, there’s clear evidence of the Bishop’s acts, it said.

On the other hand, the Bishop, in his plea for discharge claimed that the charges against him were cooked up due to some personal grudges and differences the victim had with him. He claimed he was being implicated because he had questioned her financial dealings.

In March, the trial court in Kottayam had similarly swatted aside his discharge plea, directing him to face trial.

The 56-year-old former Bishop of Jalandhar diocese of the Catholic Church is accused of raping a nun, belonging to the Missionaries of Jesus, several times between 2014 and 2016 at a convent in Kuravilangad in Kottayam district. He spent 40 days in prison in 2018 after being arrested by a special investigation team of the police and was released on bail.

Kerala court cancels bail to rape-accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal

Kerala court cancels bail to rape-accused Bishop Franco Mulakkal. The Kottayam Additional District Court Monday cancelled the bail of rape-accused Catholic Bishop Franco Mulakkal after he failed to appear on numerous occasions before the court despite several warnings.
By The Indian Express
https://indianexpress.com/article/india/kerala-nun-rape-case-bishop-franco-mulakkal-bail-cancelled-6503954/

Kottayam: Rape accused Roman Catholic Bishop Franco Mulakkal released on bail ,in Kottayam on Tuesday , October 16, 2018. Bishop Franco Mulakkal, arrested over three weeks ago on allegations of repeatedly raping a nun, was released from a sub-jail near here Tuesday, a day after the Kerala High Court granted him bail. (PTI10_16_2018_000158B)

The Kottayam Additional District Court Monday cancelled the bail of rape-accused Catholic Bishop Franco Mulakkal after he failed to appear on numerous occasions before the court despite several warnings. The court proceeded to issue a non-bailable arrest warrant against him.

When the case came up for hearing today, the Bishop, through his counsel, informed the court that he would not be able to appear in person as he was on the primary contact list of a person who tested positive for coronavirus in Jalandhar in Punjab where he is currently based. Mulakkal is the former Bishop of the Jalandhar diocese of the Catholic Church.

On July 1 too, when the case last came up for hearing, Mulakkal had excused himself by stating that he was located in a containment zone and therefore wouldn’t be able to travel to Kerala.

The special prosecutor, appearing on behalf of the police, informed the court that Mulakkal was lying and was simply attempting to delay the proceedings in the case.

Mulakkal, who was granted bail in 2018, is accused of raping a nun belonging to the order of Missionaries of Jesus several times between 2014 and 2016 at a convent in Kottayam district in Kerala. The 56-year-old was arrested following huge protests in Kerala and spent nearly 40 days in jail before he received bail. While he claims the charges are concocted, the rape victim and her colleagues in the order have stuck to their testimony. There are also allegations that he, through the Church, was going about intimidating witnesses and applying pressure on others to change their testimonies. This is the first time in India that rape charges have been framed against a Catholic Bishop.

Last week, the Kerala High Court dismissed the discharge plea of Mulakkal, insisting that he must face trial.

Australian cardinal won’t fight sentence if he loses appeal

Australian cardinal won’t fight sentence if he loses appeal
By Trevor Marshallsea AP
https://cruxnow.com/church-in-oceania/2019/05/australian-cardinal-wont-fight-sentence-if-he-loses-appeal/

Disgraced Australian Catholic cardinal George Pell will not fight for a reduced jail sentence if he fails in his appeal of his conviction for molesting two choirboys in the 1990s, a court spokesman said Monday.

The 77-year-old Pell — the most senior Catholic official convicted of sex abuse — was sentenced in a Melbourne court in March to six years in prison. He must serve at least three years and eight months of the term.

Pell will appeal his conviction next month. His lawyers have filed an application arguing it should be overturned on three grounds.

But the application does not include an appeal of the length of the sentence, Andre Awadalla, a spokesman for the Court of Appeal in Victoria state, told the Associated Press.

“The only appeal application filed on the matter is an appeal against conviction,” Awadalla said. “His lawyers haven’t filed an appeal in relation to sentence.”

In sentencing Pell in March, Victorian County Court Chief Judge Peter Kidd acknowledged that there was a real chance that Pope Francis’s former finance minister could die in jail.

Pell was convicted by a unanimous jury verdict in December on one charge of sexual penetration of a child and four charges of committing an indecent act with or in the presence of a child.

He was found guilty of raping a 13-year-old choirboy and sexually molesting his 13-year-old friend in the sacristy of St. Patrick’s Cathedral in Melbourne in 1996, months after he became archbishop of the city. He molested the first boy again about a month later. One of his victims later died of a heroin overdose at the age of 31.

Pell’s appeal application is set down for hearing on June 5 and 6, with three judges to first decide whether he should be granted leave to appeal.

His legal team will first argue that the verdicts were “unreasonable” since the jury could not have been satisfied beyond reasonable doubt that Pell was guilty based on the word of the surviving victim against “unchallenged exculpatory evidence” of more than 20 prosecution witnesses.

Pell’s lawyers are also expected to argue that Judge Kidd erred in not allowing them to use a video graphic in their closing arguments, which they said would demonstrate the offending that was alleged would have been impossible.

The third ground details an alleged “fundamental irregularity” in the trial in that Pell was not arraigned — asked if he pleaded guilty or not guilty — in front of the chosen jury.

If the judges accept the first ground, Pell’s conviction will be overturned and he will be released.

A new trial could be ordered if they accept the second or third grounds.

While Pell remains Australia’s highest-ranking Catholic, the Vatican has launched its own investigation into his convictions.

Catholic priest sentenced to prison for molesting teenager

Catholic priest sentenced to prison for molesting teenager
By AP
https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2019/09/catholic-priest-sentenced-to-prison-for-molesting-teenager/

A Catholic priest who pleaded no contest to sexually assaulting a Northern California teenager for more than a year has been sentenced to nearly five years in prison.

KPIX-TV reports that Father David Mendoza-Vela, was sentenced Friday.

Prosecutors say Mendoza-Vela began molesting the boy in June 2016 when the victim was 14.

The 42-year-old priest was originally charged with 30 counts of lewd acts on a child. Twenty-five counts were dismissed as part of a plea deal.

Mendoza-Vela, who has since apologized to the boy, must register as a sex offender and stay away from his victim for at least 10 years.

Ordained in 2013, he was most recently assigned to the ministry at Fremont’s Corpus Christi Catholic Church.

He was placed on administrative leave after his March arrest.

Louisiana priest convicted of molestation released on bond

Louisiana priest convicted of molestation released on bond
By AP
https://cruxnow.com/church-in-the-usa/2020/04/louisiana-priest-convicted-of-molestation-released-on-bond/

OPELOUSAS, Louisiana — A former Louisiana priest convicted of molesting an altar boy was released from jail on bond over coronavirus safety concerns.

Michael Guidry, 77, was released Friday nearly a year after he pleaded guilty to molesting a 16-year old boy after giving him alcohol in Guidry’s home, The Advertiser reported. The victim said in a civil lawsuit that he woke up one day in 2015 after doing chores in Guidry’s home and found the former priest molesting him, The Advocate reported. The victim told authorities about the molestation when he was an adult, four years after it happened.

Guidry, who served as the priest of St. Peter’s Church in Morrow, was then sentenced to 10 years in prison in April 2019, KATC-TV reported.

His release on bond from St. Landry Parish jail comes amid objections from state prosecutors after his defense attorney, Jane Hogan, requested an emergency appeal hearing because of the virus outbreak. Guidry had been awaiting another sentencing hearing after a request to reconsider his 10-year sentence was denied by a judge in September, KATC-TV reported.

Kevin Bourgeois, a volunteer at a New Orleans nonprofit group for survivors of clergy abuse, told KATC-TV Guidry’s release on bond sends a message to survivors that “their life is not as important as this sex offender’s life.”

Judge Alonzo Harris, the same judge who sentenced Guidry last year, had set the bond for Guidry. During that sentencing, the judge said “there are some things in life you just can’t tolerate and one is sexual abuse on our children by priests.”

Guidry will be placed on house arrest with an ankle monitor while on bond, and the court has also instructed him to not make contact with the victim.

Tommy Guilbeau, a defense attorney that is not involved in the case, said while it’s “highly unusual” for a felon convicted of child molestation to be on house arrest, not releasing them at this time would be “condemning them to die in a petri dish of COVID-19.”

The victim’s parents and siblings told the court last year that the abuse caused chaos and pain in their family. The family declined to comment to KATC-TV due to a gag order.

The AP does not usually name victims of sexual assault.

Abuse victim of Opus Dei priest wants case to be acknowledged

Abuse victim of Opus Dei priest wants case to be acknowledged
By Ines San Martin
https://cruxnow.com/church-in-europe/2020/07/abuse-victim-of-opus-dei-priest-wants-case-to-be-acknowledged/

ROSARIO, Argentina – On June 30, Father Manuel Cociña, a Spaniard, became the first priest belonging to the personal prelature of Opus Dei to be found guilty and sentenced by the Vatican of sexual abuse. He has 15 days to appeal, though sources have told Crux he’s not planning on doing so since appeals usually end worse for those found guilty.

Cociña, 72, was found guilty of molesting one young man, who was 18 when the abuse began in 2002. He’s been sentenced to five years of suspended ministry. He’ll have to spend the time in prayer in the residence where he lives, and after that, when he’s allowed back to ministry, he won’t be able to have contact with people under 30.

His victim was an Opus Dei member at the time of the abuse. Today he lives in Chile, is married, and remains a Mass-going Catholic. He spoke first with a Spanish news outlet and then with Crux, not out of “animosity towards the Church, nor the Work,” he said on Wednesday, using the colloquial term for Opus Dei, which is Latin for “Work of God.”

“What I want is for my case to become public so the Catholic Church in Spain, and Opus Dei there, can move forward in abuse prevention and transparency, as has happened in Chile,” said the survivor, who will be called “Lucas” to protect his identity.

“Eight years ago, the Catholic Church in Chile blew up because of the Karadima case,” Lucas said. “Maybe the same can happen here.”

The reference is to Fernando Karadima, the country’s most notorious pedophile priest, who was expelled from the priesthood by Pope Francis after the Vatican sentenced him to a life of penitence and prayer.

When Francis visited Chile in 2018, he accused Karadima survivors – James Hamilton, Juan Carlos Cruz and Jose Andres Murillo – of “calumny” for asserting that Chilean Bishop Juan Barros, a protégé of Karadima, had covered up for his mentor.

Three months later, and after sending two top-notch investigators to Chile, the pontiff made a 180 degree turn.

He summoned all of Chile’s bishops to Rome,and they handed in their resignations; he publicly apologized to survivors; and he began purging the Chilean church, with several bishops replaced in less than a year, some removed from the priesthood, and several famous priests expelled for having abused minors.

Lucas, who decided to lodge a formal allegation against Cociña after the pope’s visit, believes much has improved since then. In Santiago, the country’s capital, there’s an office that tends to victims, OPADE, and protects those who make allegations. In his own case, they’ve covered his bills for both legal counsel and a psychologist.

“Everything is support and transparency,” Lucas said regarding his experience in Chile.

In Spain, however, he said he’s struggled. He first spoke to his spiritual director about the abuses almost a decade ago, yet Crux has confirmed that Cociña was transferred several times even after the allegation was made against him.

Cociña worked in high schools, seminaries and was even the rector of the Basilica of San Miguel, run by Opus Dei in Madrid. He was transferred to the basilica in 2002, a date Lucas remembers because it was “after the canonization of Escriva,” meaning, after the founder of Opus Dei was declared a saint earlier that year.

Two years later, Cociña was “quietly transferred” to Galicia, a province in northwestern Spain. Lucas said that move is especially worrying because “it happened after Boston,” meaning after clerical abuse allegations blew up in the United States.

“What enrages me is that this man has been abusing young men for 30 years throughout Spain, and the Work moved him from one place to the other,” Lucas said. “He’s been condemned for my case, because I’m the one who’s formally charged him. But this is not about my case, it’s about his life. And the lives he might have ruined.”

After Lucas made his allegation public in 2019 by speaking with a Spanish journalist, Opus Dei released a statement, acknowledging that in August 2018, the prelature in Spain had received from Chile an accusation of sexual abuse against Cociña.

The statement also said that less than a month later, and at the direct order of Monsignor Fernando Ocariz, the head of Opus Dei, a preliminary investigation was ordered. By Oct. 1, 2018, the priest had been restricted in his pastoral ministry, being banned from talking to people under 30, and restricted to the center where he lives.

By December 2018, the file was at the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, the Vatican office that handles allegations of sexual abuse by priests. It was this office that ruled on June 30 that the priest had been found guilty.

The sentence was communicated to Lucas, but no formal statement has been made. Furthermore, a representative of Opus Dei reportedly told Lucas that no statement should be expected, because his case “wasn’t that big … Cociña is no McCarrick or Karadima,” meaning, ex-cardinal Theodore McCarrick, the former Washington archbishop found guilty of abuse and removed from the priesthood by Francis.

“I’m very glad with the fact that there’s a sentence, because it means that what happened is finally acknowledged,” Lucas said. “At times, I felt I was crazy, that I was making it up. The sentence is small: Five years suspended and five more years locked in his center. But I haven’t seen the sentence, and I’ve received no institutional call from Opus Dei confirming it.”

“The person who told me was the man appointed by the prelate, who’s a lovely person and who’s been nothing but helpful and forthcoming, but who told me ‘This is canon law, you don’t have a right to the sentence, nor right to know who said what’,” Lucas said.

“The accused and I are not on even footing: I notify the Church of the abuse, and it’s the Church [Opus Dei] that canonically makes the accusation [to the CDF],” he said. “I know there are other accusers in the case against Cociña.”

Lucas has filed no civil complaint because of the statute of limitations.

What he’s been told is that sentence is 16 pages long and that it does, in fact, include other people who were reportedly molested by the priest.

“I’m not going to change canon law,” Lucas said dejectedly. “But what I want is for Opus Dei to release a statement saying ‘this person has been found guilty,’ as they did when the allegation was made.”

“I want a statement to be made, not because I’m obsessed with this story being in the media, but because some people know who I am. There are people in Spain who know I made the allegations, and I want for it to be publicly acknowledged: I didn’t lie, I’m not a crazy man who did this out of hatred of the Work.”

Cociña has 15 days to appeal the sentence, and until he formally decides not to do so, the sentence is not considered definitive. Until then, Opus Dei cannot publicly address the issue.

Buffalo Diocese files for bankruptcy after hundreds of sex abuse claims

Buffalo Diocese files for bankruptcy after hundreds of sex abuse claims. Albany Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger has led the diocese since December.
By Cayla Harris
https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Buffalo-Diocese-files-for-bankruptcy-after-hundred-15091849.php

The Buffalo Diocese, temporarily headed by Albany Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger, filed for bankruptcy Friday morning as it grapples with hundreds of lawsuits alleging decades of child sexual abuse and cover-ups.

It is the second New York diocese to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy – which allows for reorganization of assets instead of liquidation. The Diocese of Rochester filed for bankruptcy in September. The decision was largely anticipated as the Buffalo diocese, facing more than 250 lawsuits over the past six months alleging sexual abuse, has emerged as the most-named defendant in all Child Victims Act cases.

The state’s Child Victims Act in August opened a one-year window temporarily eliminating the statute of limitations for civil cases involving sex crimes. Since then, more than 1,600 cases have been filed statewide, many of them resurfacing decades-old allegations.

In a filing in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in the Western District of New York – first reported by The Buffalo News – the Buffalo Diocese identified $10 million to $50 million in assets and $50 million to $100 million in liabilities. In court filings, Scharfenberger asserted that the filing was necessary “in order to respond to claims stemming from the Child Victims Act in an equitable and comprehensive manner, and to reorganize the financial affairs of the Diocese in order to permit it to continue to fulfill its ministries to the Catholic faithful of the Diocese.”

“We have no more urgent work than to bring about justice and healing for those harmed by the scourge of sexual abuse,” Scharfenberger said in a Friday statement.

The decision puts all lawsuits against the diocese on pause as leaders determine how best to address the allegations and compensate accusers. It does not affect the daily operations of local parishes.

Scharfenberger, who is temporarily leading the Buffalo Diocese after the resignation of its former Bishop Richard Malone in December, will address the media in Buffalo at a 1 p.m. news conference. He had been weighing the decision for months, repeatedly telling reporters that a decision would come “soon.”

“Whatever we do has to be done in a way that puts victims first,” Scharfenberger told Albany reporters in December, acknowledging that bankruptcy could freeze litigation but may also offer more equal payouts to survivors who have filed claims. “We want to look at all of those things, and then that might be the best way to go.”

He said at the time that the Albany Diocese is not considering a bankruptcy filing, and likely would not for “the next year or so.” The Albany Diocese has also faced its share of Child Victims Act cases, though far fewer, at about 65. The Albany Diocese serves about half the number of Catholics as the Buffalo Diocese.

“The decision in Buffalo does not affect the Diocese of Albany in any way,” Albany Diocese spokeswoman Mary DeTurris-Poust said in an email. “Until we know the full financial scope of the CVA as it relates to the Diocese of Albany, we cannot and will not make any decisions. We have nothing to announce, other than that we continue to respond in justice to survivors of abuse and urge anyone who has suffered such abuse to come forward.”

Survivors and attorneys, reacting to Friday’s filing, criticized the decision as a roundabout way of denying victims their day in court. They noted that bankruptcy allows the diocese to avoid releasing certain information and files about priests and clergy accused of abusing children – documents that would typically be unearthed during the discovery process.

Manhattan-based attorney Jeff Anderson, who represents dozens of survivors suing the Buffalo Diocese, said the diocese “is using bankruptcy to continue to conceal the truth about predator priests.”

State Sen. Brad Hoylman, D-Manhattan, a sponsor of the Child Victims Act, said the filing could help reveal “how deep the pockets are of the institution” – but at the expense of preventing survivors from speaking out in front of a judge in a public courtroom.

“It’s despicable that an institution that was responsible for the abuse of thousands of young people across the state of New York would try to hide behind the bankruptcy laws to prevent these individuals from receiving the entirety of the claim due to them,” he said.

Judge dismisses Buffalo Diocese’s attempt to get $1.7M Covid-19 loan

Judge dismisses Buffalo Diocese’s attempt to get $1.7M Covid-19 loan
By Jay Tokasz
https://buffalonews.com/business/local/judge-dismisses-buffalo-dioceses-attempt-to-get-1-7m-covid-19-loan/article_c01d9be2-8123-5dc4-a4ae-9e3a7e1f7a49.html

A federal judge in Rochester has ruled against the Buffalo Diocese’s efforts to secure a $1.7 million loan through the Small Business Administration’s national Paycheck Protection Program.

U.S. District Court Judge Elizabeth A. Wolford on Wednesday dismissed the diocese’s lawsuit against the federal agency that runs the loan program and refused to grant a preliminary injunction that would have forced the SBA into considering the diocese’s loan request.

Wolford said in a written summary judgment the “SBA did not exceed its statutory authority” in adopting a policy that excluded entities in bankruptcy from qualifying for the loans.

The diocese’s lawyers had argued that the SBA illegally excluded the diocese from applying for a share of the $659 billion Congress made available to businesses that keep employees on their payrolls during social distancing shutdown measures prompted by the coronavirus pandemic.

The Buffalo Diocese joined with the Rochester Diocese in asking the U.S. District Court for a preliminary injunction that would prohibit the SBA from denying the loan based on their bankruptcy statuses.

The Rochester Diocese sought $1.1 million from the SBA’s Paycheck Protection Program and was ineligible because it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last September. The Buffalo Diocese filed for bankruptcy in February.

Government lawyers explained in court that the SBA adopted the bankruptcy exclusion to speed up loan processing and to ensure lenders that it wasn’t approving unacceptably high-risk loans.

Without the PPP loans, the dioceses argued that they “will be forced to lay off or furlough essential employees which will have a permanent effect” on how their Chapter 11 bankruptcy cases are administered.

The Buffalo Diocese in March eliminated the jobs of 21 employees, a fifth of its workforce, due in part to the “anticipated financial impact of the pandemic.” The cutbacks followed a 2019 fiscal year loss of $5 million for the diocese.

With Catholic Masses suspended during the pandemic, area parishes have been unable to bring in offertory collections. In turn, the parishes have been unable to meet their financial obligations to the diocese, the diocese’s lawyers said in court papers.

With stay at home directives in effect, the diocese “will struggle to continue making payroll payments,” which is the main eligibility requirement for the Paycheck Protection Program, lawyers argued.

Wolford said in her ruling that she was not convinced. She called the diocese’s explanations about the financial impact of the pandemic ban on church gatherings “vague.”

The diocese’s lawyers “point out that offerings have dropped off precipitously, but they do not state what percentage of their funding comes from parish assessments versus other sources,” Wolford wrote. “Plaintiffs further have not claimed that they need PPP funds in order to make payroll—indeed, there is no indication in plaintiffs’ papers that they have not paid their employees’ salaries or that failure to obtain PPP funds would somehow cause Plaintiffs to cease to operate.”

Lawyers for the dioceses also said that the SBA added the bankruptcy rule arbitrarily, even though nothing in the CARES Act passed by Congress and signed by President Trump limits the diocese’s eligibility for the funds.

Wolford’s decision said the CARES Act was “silent regarding the eligibility of debtors in bankruptcy to participate in the PPP” and nothing in the legislation required a bankrupt debtor be eligible.

“This detail was left by Congress for determination by the SBA,” she wrote.

Small businesses and other entities – including churches and religious organizations – that employ up to 500 people are eligible for the Paycheck Protection Program, which provides loans to cover payroll costs, rent, mortgages and utilities.

The loan, which requires no fees or collateral, is fully forgiven as long as at least 60% of it is used for payroll. If that requirement isn’t met, the loan must be repaid over five years at a 1% interest rate.

Several other dioceses around the country and some Catholic parishes in Western New York have applied for and received loans through the Paycheck Protection Program.

Buffalo Diocese facing backlash for seeking federal funds, relief in CVA cases

Buffalo Diocese facing backlash for seeking federal funds, relief in CVA cases
By Cayla Harris
https://www.timesunion.com/news/article/Buffalo-Diocese-facing-backlash-for-seeking-15251143.php

Advocates for survivors of sexual abuse are denouncing the Buffalo Diocese this week after the institution, temporarily headed by Albany Bishop Edward B. Scharfenberger, moved forward with two legal filings that activists say diminish victims’ experiences and could allow the diocese to dodge consequences for decades of alleged abuse and cover-up.

The most recent filing on Tuesday was a lawsuit against the federal Small Business Administration for denying the diocese’s application for relief under the CARES Act because of its ongoing bankruptcy proceedings. It followed a separate legal action on Saturday in bankruptcy court, in which the diocese argued that all cases filed against the institution under the state’s Child Victims Act, including those that also name local parishes and schools, should be permanently suspended.

Last summer, the act opened a one-year “look-back” window allowing survivors of sexual abuse to pursue previously time-barred cases against their alleged offenders. The Buffalo Diocese, the most-named defendant in claims filed under the act, is facing more than 250 actions.

“The Buffalo Diocese should not use the current pandemic as an excuse to evade responsibility for the decades-long abuse of children,” said Michael Polenberg, the vice president of government affairs for the victims advocacy group Safe Horizon. “Every survivor of childhood sexual abuse deserves to hold offenders – including negligent institutions – responsible for their actions. That is the promise of the Child Victims Act … and that’s what survivors deserve.”

All lawsuits lodged against the diocese have been frozen since February, when the institution filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which allows for reorganization of assets instead of liquidation. Some cases that also name separate Catholic entities where the abuse allegedly occurred would typically be allowed to move to trial at a later date – a move the diocese said would open the door to a cumbersome and costly discovery process.

Buffalo Diocese spokesman Greg Tucker declined to make Scharfenberger, who took the helm of the scandal-plagued diocese in December, available for an interview on either topic.

On the federal stimulus funds, Tucker said the institution decided to sue the SBA because it “exceeded its authority” in denying money to an organization moving through bankruptcy proceedings. The CARES Act “makes no reference to disqualifying applications on the basis of an entity in Chapter 11 reorganization,” he said.

State Sen. Brad Hoylman, a Manhattan Democrat and CVA sponsor, said in a statement Tuesday that the lawsuit “is just the latest example of the church failing to take responsibility for decades of egregious misconduct. They should be ashamed of themselves.”

In reference to the proceeding in bankruptcy court, Tucker said suspending all cases would allow the diocese to negotiate settlements “without the distraction of piecemeal litigation” and would also make the payouts more equitable for all survivors, not just those who filed first.

“While the process continues, any lawsuits against the diocese are halted to allow the diocese and its creditors to come to agreement on settlement terms,” he said. “The action that the diocese recently filed is intended to provide the same ‘breathing spell’ for parishes, schools and other Catholic entities in the hopes of achieving a global resolution.”

Stacey Benson, an attorney with the Manhattan-based law firm Jeff Anderson & Associates that represents several plaintiffs suing the Buffalo Diocese, said the filing was an “unnecessary legal tactic (that) is insensitive to survivors of child sexual abuse who have already been deeply harmed by the abuse they suffered, as well as by the actions and inactions of top diocesan officials.”