If you’re like most people, when you hear that someone has declared bankruptcy, you feel at least a bit of sympathy for them. But we at Horowitz Law beg you to reconsider any such feelings:
- When that ‘someone’ is a large, wealthy, powerful institution like a Catholic diocese, archdiocese, or religious order
- The cause of the bankruptcy allows the institution to ignore, enable, and hide perhaps thousands of child sex crimes against countless children.
Consider the most recent Catholic entity to seek Chapter 11 protection, the Baltimore Archdiocese. Before even allowing oneself to feel a scintilla of sympathy for archdiocesan officials, we encourage you to either read the recent Maryland attorney general’s report on the scandal in the archdiocese or, at the very least, read about just a handful of the priests, nuns, brothers, seminarians, and monks who so severely hurt innocent and vulnerable girls and boys in Maryland, including:
- Fr. Fernando Cristancho arranged for in vitro fertilization of a woman using his sperm. She gave birth to triplets, two of whom were sexually violated by their father, the priest.
- Fr. E. Neil Magnus: accused of abusing at least seven girls, including raping one with a crucifix and assaulting others with a police officer and another priest Fr. Joseph Maskell. Both clerics have been implicated in the unsolved 1969 murder of a nun, Sr. Cathy Cesnik. Fr. Magnus worked at five Maryland high schools.
- Fr. Wayland Y. Brown, whose child sex crimes led to one the five largest individual settlements in US Catholic church history. (A Georgia man victimized by Fr. Brown received $4+ million.) Fr. Brown molested kids while he was a seminarian, and he went on to become ordained even though a fellow clergyman had warned his bishop about his dangerous predilections. One of Fr. Brown’s victims said that when he was nine years old, Fr. Brown put a gun to his head, threatened to kill him, his family, and his dog, and liked killing small animals.
- Fr. Dennis A. Pecore, who abused an eight-year-old boy, and then introduced him to Fr. Simon Palathingal, who also abused him (and was convicted in 2004 of the crimes). Fr. Pecore was convicted in Wisconsin of sexually assaulting a teenage boy. “Some parochial teachers had told (then-Archbishop Rembert) Weakland of the abuse, who did nothing,” according to BishopAccountability.org. The teachers were fired.
Why discuss these crimes and cover-ups? Because when an institution seeks bankruptcy protection, it’s easy for us to shift our focus away from its horrific wrongdoing to its financial future. To use a hackneyed term, institutional bankruptcy – especially when it stems from child sexual abuse and concealment – is a ‘game-changer’ in many ways, ways that mostly benefit the institution.
Chapter 11 changes what the media deems newsworthy. When an institution files for bankruptcy, the main question shifts from “Who did harm by protecting secrets and criminals?” to “Who’s going to get paid how much money when?” Institutions who run into federal court hoping, in part, for this shift – and hoping to continue to protect its secrets and criminals – are not deserving of anyone’s sympathy. And Baltimore is, in our view, Baltimore is likely worse than many other Catholic dioceses across the US regarding abuse and cover-up. One indication that the Baltimore Archdiocese has perhaps been even more reckless, callous, and deceitful than other dioceses is the number of its clerics who have been criminally convicted of assaulting children.
Besides Fr. Pecore and Fr. Cristancho, other Baltimore area child molesting clerics who have been convicted include Fr. Michael Lowell Barnes, Fr. Thomas R. Bevan, Fr. Maurice J. Blackwell, Fr. Brian M. Cox, Fr. Richard Deakin, Fr. Marion Francis Helowicz, Fr. William Earl Krouse, Fr. Arthur R. Maurer, Fr. John Joseph Mike, Jr., Brian Keith Olkowski (seminarian), Fr. Gerard Trageser, Fr. Jorge Antonio Velez-Lopez and Fr. Gerard Bugge. (Bugge was charged with both child sexual abuse and drunk driving but only convicted of the latter offense).
Few other dioceses or archdioceses have this many child molesting clerics who’ve abused so frequently and egregiously, been caught and charged, and who’ve ended up convicted. From an abuse victim’s perspective, it’s worth noting that abuse lawsuits against already-convicted child predators can sometimes be resolved more quickly and with less stress than suits against predators who have not been found guilty in criminal courts.
It’s good for us to feel sympathy. But it’s best when we direct our sympathies towards those most deserving of them. In the case of institutional Catholic bankruptcy filings, we hope you’ll focus your sympathy where it should be focused: on those hurt by predator clerics, not on those who protect their predators.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by religious authority figures and other clergy. If you need a lawyer because a member of a religious organization sexually abused you, contact us today at 888-283-9922 or [email protected] to discuss your options today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help.