The Rochester diocese’s move has left many who were promised justice under New York’s Child Victims Act feeling betrayed.

Michael Polenberg, center, of Safe Horizon, a nonprofit advocacy group for victims, at an event pushing for the Child Victims Act this year.CreditCreditHans Pennink/Associated Press

Peter Saracino was in elementary school when, he said, a priest lured him away from a swimming pool and sexually abused him inside a seminary.
He kept the secret for decades, even as his life fell apart.

“We were raised to view the priest as another Christ,” Mr. Saracino said, “so when you get raped by a priest, it’s like being raped by God himself.”

Last month, at 67 years old, Mr. Saracino filed a lawsuit against the Roman Catholic Diocese of Rochester under a new law in New York that allows victims to seek justice over sexual abuse from long ago.

He expected revelations. Instead, he said, came another betrayal.

His lawsuit and dozens of others against the diocese were supposed to play out in civil court, with the expectation that victims would learn what church leaders knew and did. But the diocese sidestepped all of that by declaring bankruptcy.

Those who had anticipated a dramatic public accounting will now see their fight for culpability swept to the sidelines under the arcane rules of bankruptcy court.

Because the focus moves to the diocese’s assets, plaintiffs will be limited when it comes to asking pointed questions of priests and obtaining sensitive documents.

The legal emphasis has shifted from the church’s failings to its finances.

“Most of us do not give a hoot about the money,” Mr. Saracino, a retired high school teacher, said. “We’re after who’s responsible, who’s accountable, which priests are still in the diocese and currently in ministry. Bishop Matano knows full well it’s going to affect the discovery phase. The cover-up is worse than the crime.”

Bishop Salvatore Matano, who oversees the Rochester diocese, said the filing of Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Sept. 12 was the best way to serve the growing number of plaintiffs.

“We really want to do the most we can,” he said. He declined to elaborate through a spokesman, who directed questions to the diocese’s website.

For some, the departure from state court is not a major setback. Jake Giovati, 30, who said he had been abused by a priest at one of the diocese’s parishes when he was about 10, said he believed the diocese was still being held to answer.

“In my mind, filing for bankruptcy is them looking at those claims and seeing them as so credible that they do not believe they could denounce those in court,” Mr. Giovati said.

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But many others see the bankruptcy as a circumvention of the justice that can be delivered in civil court and in direct defiance of the state’s new Child Victims Act, which the Catholic Church spent millions of dollars trying to fight.

“In my mind, filing for bankruptcy is them looking at those claims and seeing them as so credible that they do not believe they could denounce those in court,” said Jake Giovati, who said he was abused by a priest as a child.CreditLibby March for The New York Times

The act came with a one-year “look-back window” that opened on Aug. 14 and set aside the statute of limitations on sexual abuse accusations. Hundreds of lawsuits have since been filed. Now the diocese could request in bankruptcy court that the deadline to file claims be earlier than the end of the window.

“To see institutions now deviously try to make an end run around accountability is just horrifying,” said Michael Polenberg of Safe Horizon, a nonprofit victims’ advocacy group that pushed for the law. “Survivors deserve their day in court. What we see is the diocese keeping the curtains firmly closed.”

Bankruptcy opens up financial records to the public, allows a court to take the helm, breeds a negative image and can be a drawn-out, expensive process that involves hiring financial experts and lawyers.

But Chapter 11 is usually for those with an eye toward the future. An institution can know for months or years that it plans to file and generally has insurance providers to help cover outstanding claims.

“It’s not like, ‘Well, we only raised $120 on the collection plate this week, we don’t have enough to cover the cost of the civil litigation,’” Mr. Polenberg said.

More than 20 Catholic dioceses and religious orders in the United States, including the San Diego diocese, have filed for bankruptcy over the past 15 years, according to

Rochester is the first of the eight New York dioceses to do so. Overseeing 12 counties in Western New York where more than 300,000 Catholics reside, its assets are estimated at $50 million to $100 million, while its financial liabilities are $100 million to $500 million, according to documents filed in federal bankruptcy court.

Before the filing, the Rochester diocese most likely had input from the state and national conferences of Catholic bishops, as well as from the Vatican, said Jeff Anderson, a lawyer who has represented abuse victims in numerous bankruptcy cases involving the Catholic Church.

“It’s a coordinated decision from the top down,” Mr. Anderson said. “It’s not just a little diocese saying we can’t handle this.”

Plaintiffs who have already filed cases and any forthcoming claimants will be channeled through bankruptcy court, where they become creditors eligible for a portion of a settlement fund negotiated by a committee of abuse survivors. The payout hinges on what the diocese is worth. That can get slippery.

When Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York was serving as the archbishop of Milwaukee, he requested permission from the Vatican to move nearly $57 million into a cemetery trust fund, to protect the archdiocese’s money from victims demanding compensation.
And when the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis filed for bankruptcy, its case dragged on for nearly four years, during which it was accused of hiding more than $1 billion in assets, including hastily painting over signs at cemeteries to conceal ownership. Its archbishop insisted it had disclosed all assets and was fully cooperating with the court.
“The process of bankruptcy and the activities of the church within that — hiding assets and bold-faced lying — was disgusting,” said Jim Keenan, 52, a claimant in the case.

James Stang, a lawyer who has represented creditors’ committees in more than a dozen bankruptcy cases involving Catholic dioceses, and who has been retained in the Rochester case, said victims could still find empowerment in bankruptcy court, such as the opportunity to meet with and question a bishop.

In some cases, Mr. Stang said, committees have successfully insisted that the settlement include disclosure of documents that divulge how a diocese handled sexual abuse.

When divvying up the settlement fund, various types of abuse are compared. Someone who had been penetrated would usually expect to receive more than someone who had been groped. The victim’s age at the time matters, along with the duration and frequency of the abuse and the overall effects on the person.

Rochester’s parishes are separately incorporated and should not be affected by the bankruptcy filing, according to a statement on its website. Employees and retiree benefits will continue to be paid, and donations, if made as a restricted gift, cannot be used to settle claims.

When dioceses have filed for bankruptcy in other states, they have been able to pay claims through insurers, reserves and the sale of nonsecular property, such as a chancery building or a mall, said Michael T. Pfau, a lawyer whose firm has represented child sexual abuse victims across the nation.

“It is not going to mean that there will be a wholesale sell-off of churches, hospitals and schools,” he said. “It has never happened and it’s not going to happen in Rochester.”

Bishop Matano has framed the filing as the “fairest course of action” to address a growing pool of victims, suggesting that otherwise there would be a race to the courtroom and the first round of plaintiffs would take all of the available funds.

“That is a grossly oversimplified talking point,” Mr. Pfau said. “Catholic dioceses and religious orders all over the country have resolved claims without filing for bankruptcy and they have done that through good faith negotiations with abuse survivors and their plaintiffs’ counsel.”

The Buffalo diocese has been contemplating bankruptcy, but it is a less likely path for major districts like the Archdiocese of New York, which includes Manhattan, the Bronx, Staten Island and seven counties. In anticipation of the Child Victims Act, the archdiocese sued its insurers to compel them to cover claims, a case that is still pending.

For Mr. Saracino, who is suing the Rochester diocese, the Catholic Church can go no lower than evading transparency, which is, he said, the ultimate goal of bankruptcy.

“The thing they squander most in doing this is their moral authority,” he said. “They have none anymore.”


Talk about doing victims a double injustice.

First of all a member of the clergy sexually abuses them.

Then, a more senior member of the clergy deprives them of just and full compensation.

The civil authorities are really going to have to be ruthless with the RCC

In a different was than ISIS the RCC is an axis of evil. They are moral and religious terrorists.

They have mentally and emotionally abused mmillions of ordinary Catholics over the centuries.

Their man made teachings have made millions living in hell all their lives and fearing eternal damnation.

The RCC will never change itself.

That’s why outside forces must oppose it strongly and it should be tolerated only as a private organisation with no political or social influence.


I wonder whether the diocese’s decision to file for bankruptcy was influenced by the fact that Fulton-Sheen was Bishop of Rochester from 1966 to 1969. Lets be honest: it would hardly do Fulton-Sheen’s cause for canonisation any favours should it be discovered, through disclosed diocesan documentation in civil court, that he was really no different from any other Roman Catholic bishop who covered up the sexual abuse of children by priests. And it would, indirectly, call into question the nature, the reliability, and the politics of canonisation in the Roman Catholic Church.
Of course, we will never know now one way or the other, since successful filing for bankruptcy by the diocese (which is highly likely) will take the matter right out of civil-court jurisdiction, and severely limit the extent of this disclosure, while protecting those clerics who abused children and those who concealed the abuse (along, of course, with protecting the reputations of those involved, but now dead).
A cynic might describe this manouvre by the Diocese of Rochester (despite Bishop Mantano’s explanation for it), as just a little too convenient, not only for the diocese itself, but for the institutional Church as a whole.


But do you not think that Bishop Matano is only being fair, only acting in the best interests of the alleged victims? He’s trying to ensure that everyone of them gets some compensation. I think we should give him credit for that.


you’d want to be very careful making any insinuations. The English have no quarrels in making complaints to the police regarding slander or innuendo.


3.12: What’s beefing you up Miss Threatening Buncranna? What’s this s**t about IP addresses? If you can’t cope wuth it, then get off the blog….


Are we saying that one of the wonersh crew was on an offenders list in Ireland prior to selection for uk diocese?


Presenting Father Barry Farmer now back in Rosminian House Wonersh – ” John Farmer was a priest at St Mary’s Church in Newport. Credit: Wales News Service John Farmer, now 84, abused the girl between the ages of 12 and 14 while her family were part of his congregation.

A court heard heard the Roman Catholic priest referred to his lap as “the soft seat” – and then abused her as she sat on him.

The girl “idolised” the family priest and the court heard she was “immature and blameless” during the assaults.

Farmer was a priest at St Mary’s Church in Newport and a governor at St Joseph’s RC High School in Duffryn, Newport.

An investigation into the indecent assaults was started in 1993 by police forces but Farmer denied the attacks.

But the case was re-investigated and Farmer was later charged with 27 counts of indecent assault.

Farmer, now of Guildford, Surrey, was found guilty of nine of the charges.

Cardiff Crown Court heard a pleas from defence barrister Duncan Cooke that the “intrinsically aggressive” environment of a prison would damage his health.

A doctor’s report also revealed that imprisonment was likely to “adversely affect his life expectancy.”

But Recorder Richard Williams sentenced Farmer to three years jail.

You were asked about these offences in the 1990s and you denied them.

You could have been brought to justice then and you must bear culpability for the period of delay.

The effects on your victim have been both lifelong and profound.

He will be listed on the sex offenders register for 10 years.

Last updated Sun 22 May 2016″


Some points concerning Rosmain Community -Wonersh .
1 – Add Father Robin Paulson the list of resident offenders .
2 – Why is this community neither now listed in on the Rosminian Web Site or in the Directory for Arundel and Brighton Diocese ?( Are they trying to hide a community of elderly sex offender Priests ? )
3 When Father Farmer had his trial his defence presented him to the court as having previous good character . He was already separate to the issues he went to court for officially a priest no longer in good standing due to a previous complaint . Why did the Rosminian Order and its Provincial do nothing to correct this lie that was told in court ? 


I have knowledge of Father Barry Farmer and what went on ,and it is disgusting how his Order acted , and have acted .
It was claimed before sentencing that Father Barry Farmer had”previous good character .”
I understand what happened is how Farmer got round his untrue ” previous ” good character” sham was he had the lawyers represent him directly , and not represent him through the order , so the Provincial could claim it was nothing to do with him , or the order . Where the money was coming from to pay the Farmer legal team is another issue ?
The hypocrisy of this is also during the trial Farmer continued to reside in Rosminian houses , fully supported by the Order and Provincial .Was visited by members of the Order while in Prison , and is now residing backvin the Rosminian Community as a full member . 


7.55: Can I ask you the following questions Rev. Fr. Merciful: God forbid, were you to be accused of grave misdemeanours that warranted a prison sentence, would you expect to be completely deserted by your Diocese or Religious Order and abandoned by all? Or, God forbid too that you would be falsely accused of sexual abuse, do you think you should be thrown onto the streets to fend for yourself? Is it morally right to throw you to the wolves? (I write this comment believing that child protection and responding to sexual abuse of minors and vulnerable people is of absolute and paramount importance and priority and that their needs come first but I’d like to know your response to my questions posed).


A diocese goes bankrupt. What does that say about the church and society in general. Fekked hi. The vineyard is being weeded out. Anyone tending the new growth hi


Father Barry Farmer had a relationship with my laite Mother . He manipulated a siutation with her , and took advantage . It was later reported to the Provincial of the time Father Dennis Hare . Father Hare spoke to him , and it was all hushed up , nothing done , and Farmer continued in ministry .


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