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Court sets deadline for sexual assault claims in Norwich diocese bankruptcy case

A federal bankruptcy judge has set a deadline of March 15, 2022 for receipt of claim forms from people who say they were sexually assaulted by priests and employees of Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich.

Victims who fail to do so will likely lose their right to obtain compensation from the diocese and possibly its parishes. 

The diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in July as it faced more than 60 lawsuits filed by young men who charge they were sexually assaulted as boys by Christian Brothers and other staff at the diocese-run Mount Saint John Academy in Deep River from 1990 to 2002. Mount Saint John was a residential school for troubled boys whose board of directors was headed by retired Bishop of Norwich Daniel Reilly. Since then, additional people whose sexual assault allegations involved not only Mount Saint John but diocesan churches have filed claims in the bankruptcy case.

The bankruptcy process, which freezes lawsuits against the diocese, will determine the assets of the diocese and how much each victim will receive in damages. The court has set a deadline of Jan. 31, 2022 for the diocese to file its plan, but that could be extended. The 51 parishes in the Roman Catholic Diocese of Norwich are now seeking to join the diocese in seeking bankruptcy protection from sexual abuse claims against priests and other employees and will have to contribute funds to the settlement. This would leave victims unable to sue the parishes in the future.

The official notice of the deadline or "bar date" from the Bankruptcy Court for the District of Connecticut states in bold letters that anyone who was sexually abused, on or before July 15, 2021, the date the diocese filed bankruptcy, and believes the diocese may be responsible for the sexual abuse, must file a claim.

"This includes sexual abuse in connection with any entity or activity associated with the diocese. Sexual Abuse claims include but are not limited to: sexual misconduct, touching, inappropriate contact, or sexual comments about a person or other behaviors that led to abuse, and regardless of whether you thought the behavior was sexual abuse or not," states the notice.

Bold letters also tell victims that regardless of how old they are today or when the abuse occurred, they need to file their claims so they are received by 5 p.m. Eastern Time on March 15, 2022. Although the statute of limitations in Connecticut currently prohibits victims older than 51 from filing a lawsuit against the diocese and parishes, they can still file a claim. The General Assembly may also pass a law this winter that creates a period of time for victims of any age to file lawsuit if they were victims of sexual assault.

The bankruptcy court notice also states that victims should consider submitting a proof of claim even if they believe
their claim may be subject to a defense that the statute of limitations has expired. It is unclear if the diocese will fight claims by those older than 51. Claims can be submitted by mail or electronically. The claim forms asks victims for details about the abuse and the effect it has had on their life. The notice states that all information submitted by victims will be kept private.

Information on how to file a claim and on the bankruptcy case can be found at https://dm.epiq11.com/case/rcdn or by calling 1-855-654-0902.

The notice also provides a link to a list of 50 clergy members that the diocese says have been identified in connection
with sexual abuse claims. The list is available at https://www.norwichdiocese.org/Find/Accused-Clergy.

That list, which was updated this past May, is incomplete. It does not include Christian Brother J. Paul McGlade and others accused of sexually assaulting the boys at Mount Saint John. It also does not include clergy members The Day has identified as being accused of sexually assaulting children in the diocese. The diocese halted its 17-month-long investigation into the extent of abuse by diocesan priests and clergy after it filed for bankruptcy, and never issued a report.

The diocese list also does not say where the priests served in the diocese or what they are accused of doing.

The order by Judge James Tancredi also requires the diocese to immediately began publishing the notice of the claims process and deadline in various publications and deliver it to local media and the 51 parishes. 

j.wojtas@theday.com  

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