Turn Your Pain into Power: File a Claim for Justice if You Were Abused in a Bankrupt Diocese

by | Nov 6, 2023 | Catholic Church

Bankrupt Diocese Compensation Horowitz Law

Suppose you’ve been a victim of child sexual abuse by a clergy member in a diocese that claims it is belly-up, and you’re considering claiming the compensation you truly deserve. In that case, here are a few things you should know about filing for compensation.

Tip 1: Submitting a claim doesn’t risk or jeopardize your privacy.

Tip 2: It’s as quick and straightforward as filling out a single-page application or form.

Tip 3: It’s not final – you can decide to retract or withdraw from the process at any time.

Tip 4: More importantly, it’s nothing like the grueling process of filing a civil lawsuit. The even more significant relief? There is typically no interrogative cross-questioning from a lawyer representing the church.

But before we dive deeper into this, let’s pause and start by acknowledging a few simple truths.

It shouldn’t have happened. You should have never been traumatized by a cleric when you were young. No child should suffer abuse, and everyone has the right to a secure, healthy childhood. The trauma inflicted by that clergy member has left you battling – possibly still wrestling with certain issues in ways you might not even comprehend. This is the key reason why therapy plays a vital role in healing. It assists you in figuring out how the abuse has affected different aspects of your life and how to move forward.

Tragically, you can never reclaim those lost years and the innocence that was unfairly taken. Despite sweat and tears in therapy and recovery, you may never fully rebuild your weakened self-esteem, your crushed confidence, or your misplaced trust in others. With that said, you ABSOLUTELY and undeniably deserve compensation for the pain you suffered and the often debilitating after-effects of the abuse. The institution that overlooked the predator’s actions against you ought to pay for their heartlessness, negligence, and deception. You deserve more than just a check, but a monetary settlement shouldn’t be dismissed. It’s something; it’s a start, especially when the process isn’t excessively risky, deeply stressful, or incredibly time-consuming.

A settlement check – whether from a civil lawsuit, a bankruptcy filing, or a jury verdict- typically provides victims with at least some measure of vindication, validation, and compensation. You won’t be exactly the same person you were before the abuse. But you can, and certainly will, heal. You’ll find strength in saying, “I was brave. I broke my silence, shared my pain, and I received some level of compensation.” This money could also help potentially pave the way to receive the vital counseling or medical care you require.

Shifting gears back to bankruptcy specifics…

Bankruptcy isn’t common knowledge, and few people know the actual details. Some are vaguely familiar with the basics of personal Chapter 11 filing, but not many are well-versed with institutional bankruptcies.

A lack of understanding might discourage us or make us shy away. (It’s always easier to do nothing than to look into an unknown possibility.) Yet, avoiding what seems complex could mean missing out on an opportunity to lighten emotional and financial burdens. It’s an effective short-term strategy to avoid potential stress. It’s as simple as weighing the pros and cons. You could potentially receive thousands of dollars from the institution that failed you. The process is often as simple as completing a short questionnaire.

So, where to start? First off, reach out to an attorney competent in this field. The initial consultation is free. If courtroom jargon isn’t your preferred language, you’ll find ease in knowing the process is a lot simpler than victims expect. In most cases, claiming compensation through church bankruptcy requires filling out a single-page ‘claim form.’ Though a judge might authorize using an extended form, it isn’t mandatory, but if you are able and willing, the more details, the better. Checking some boxes and providing short answers, either on paper or through an online form, may be enough to claim compensation from a church entity whose decision-makers put their own comfort, convenience, reputations, and careers ahead of your safety, to often disastrous consequences.

This isn’t mere speculation. In the past two decades, about 30 Catholic religious orders and dioceses have formally declared Chapter 11 bankruptcy. In fact, if your abuse was in Ogdensburg, NY, the important deadline to file is looming – Jan. 18, 2024 – after which it becomes much more difficult to seek justice, healing, and closure in court for these victims. 

At Horowitz Law, we’ve supported hundreds of survivors in many bankruptcy cases. We know that not every victim should necessarily file a bankruptcy claim form (or, for that matter, file a civil lawsuit, meet with church officials, or call the police. Every survivor is different. Every survivor heals in her or his individual way. We recognize the peaks and valleys and understand how to navigate this journey smoothly. However, we truly believe that each survivor deserves at least an exploration into whether filing suits their best interest. To sum it up, If your initial reaction is to dismiss the thought of compensation through church bankruptcy, we hope you’ll reconsider.

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. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help.