Public court proceedings are the best way to protect the innocent and expose the truth. We’re appalled that Catholic and court officials would meet behind closed doors. Secrecy only benefits predators and those who shield predators. Let’s hope this troubling secrecy won’t become a pattern.
We aren’t lawyers and may not fully understand the intricacies of Chapter 11 proceedings. But we know all too well, from painful personal experience over decades, that the Catholic hierarchy has repeatedly exploited secrecy for self-serving ends while endangering kids in the process.
It’s easy to become complacent about clergy sex crimes and cover ups, and to assume that since the courts are now involved, the truth will ultimately surface. That’s naive. Kids need and adults deserve openness, especially surrounding predator priests and complicit bishops. Only vigilance will preserve openness.
There’s only one potential silver lining here. Let’s hope this ill-advised move will make a dent in the premature complacency some Catholics feel and will prompt others who saw, suspected or suffered clergy sex crimes – whether as a victim, witness or whistleblower – to come forward, end secrecy, get help, call police, protect kids, and start healing.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around since 1988 and have more than 9,000 members across the country. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
Contact David Clohessy (314-566-9790 cell, 314-645-5915 home), Peter Isely (414-429-7259) Barbara Blaine (312-399-4747)
Nov 4, 2009
Bankruptcy Trustee In Del. Holds Private Meeting
RANDALL CHASE, Associated Press Writer
WILMINGTON, Del. (AP) ― Federal officials began the process of choosing creditor representatives in the Catholic Diocese of Wilmington’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy by meeting with diocesan officials behind closed doors Wednesday.
The U.S. Trustee’s office, a branch of the Justice Department that supervises the administration of bankruptcy cases, publicly advertised a meeting at a Wilmington hotel to organize the diocese’s committee of unsecured creditors, which is expected to include several alleged victims of priest sexual abuse.
But acting U.S. Trustee Roberta DeAngelis declared Wednesday that it was a private meeting that would not start until an Associated Press reporter left a hotel conference room.
Officials repeatedly refused to cite the legal authority allowing them to bar reporters or the public from the meeting, saying only that it was their policy to consider such meetings private.
The judge in the case has not issued any ruling allowing closed-door proceedings, and reporters in Delaware have attended such meetings in the past, including organizational meetings in the Visteon Corp. and Washington Mutual bankruptcies.
After the reporter refused to leave, representatives of the trustee’s office and the diocese moved to another room. A representative of the trustee’s office stood in front of the door to prevent the reporter from entering, and a hotel employee later locked the door.
Robert Brady, a bankruptcy attorney for the diocese, said the diocese did not request the closed-door proceedings, but that the trustee’s office had told the diocese it was their policy.
“This is a meeting called by and run by the U.S. Trustee’s office, so we complied with their wishes,” Brady said. “They said it’s their policy and they can’t make exceptions.”
The diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last month after settlement talks failed with several alleged victims of priest sexual abuse. The filing came on the eve of what would have been the first trial under a Delaware law that created a two-year “lookback” window allowing claims of abuse to be brought even if the statute of limitations had expired. More than 175 lawsuits were filed before the window closed this summer.
James Stang, a bankruptcy attorney representing alleged abuse victims, declined to comment on how the meeting complied with the transparency the diocese has said the bankruptcy will involve.
“I don’t think this is the diocese’s issue, I think this is the U.S. Trustee’s issue,” Stang said. “I don’t want to comment on whether I think their procedures are proper or not.”