The Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington released their new bankruptcy plan on Monday, allowing for an average settlement of $750,000 to $3 million for survivors of priest sexual abuse.
Under this new plan, $74 million dollars will become available to divide among approximately 150 priest-abuse victims who have claims pending. These claims are against the diocese itself or one of the parishes. This is to be compared with a bankruptcy plan filed in September that offered $28 million, stated a source. Because these acts took place on church property, premises liability is in the mix also.
Under the September plan, the average settlement would have been between $285,000 and $489,000. The diocese was able to increase the money available by dissolving a foundation established to benefit itself over 80 years ago.
The new settlement plan, however, has to be approved by the majority of the abuse survivors. The survivors must waive their claims against the parishes, or the diocese will revert back to a variation of the September plan, reported a spokesperson.
This “diocese-only” plan would mean no contributions from the foundation or the parishes, making the pool of divisible money as small as $15 million. Some lawyers claim that the diocese seems to be playing with numbers, spouting out such large figures that don’t seem realistic. The church explained that it will take time to review the lengthy legal document. Parishes in Long Island and New York City are thinking of taking the same approach.
A Bishop with the diocese stated that he hopes the plans will offer injured parties a choice, and that the current suggested settlement plan can be adopted. If it does, the diocese hopes to emerge from bankruptcy sometime in April. Further litigation could postpone that date, running up even higher legal fees against the diocese.
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