Sex Abuse Lawsuits on Hold in Delaware

On the eve of a sex abuse trial, the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in federal court in Wilmington Delaware. The Diocese of Wilmington is the seventh diocese in the United States and first on the east coast to file for bankruptcy protection. The Diocese faces liability for sexual abuse claims filed in Delaware courts after passage of the state’s 2007 Child Vicitms Act allowing survivors of child sexual abuse, who had been barred from filing suit against their abusers under the statute of limitations, to bring civil cases in Delaware Superior Court during a two-year window that expired in July. More than 175 cases involving at least 190 plaintiffs have been filed with Superior Court, according to court documents.
In announcing the bankruptcy filing, Wilmington Bishop Francis Malooly stated, “after careful consideration and after consultation with my close advisers and counselors, I believe we have no other choice, and that filing for Chapter 11 offers the best opportunity, given finite resources, to provide the fairest possible treatment of all victims of sexual abuse by priests of our Diocese.”
The founder of the advocacy group Survivors of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP), Barbara Blaine characterized the bankruptcy filing in another fashion. “The bottom line is that the bishop doesn’t want the truth to be exposed,” Blaine said.
The sex abuse trial that had been scheduled to begin Monday involved former Catholic priest Francis DeLuca who had worked in the Diocese of Wilmington for more than 35 years and is now the target of multiple lawsuits for sexually abusing minors.