Catholic diocese mulls options, including bankruptcy, amid clergy abuse lawsuits

OGDENSBURG — Catholics in northern New York received a message from the Diocese of Ogdensburg on Sunday.

A one-page letter, which was either handed out to churchgoers or included in the bulletin, was not distributed by all parishes Sunday. Some will distribute the letter on March 1.

The letter details the struggles the diocese has faced in the wake of the passage of the Child Victims Act which opened a one-year window for victims of childhood sexual abuse to bring lawsuits that were previously barred due to statutes of limitation. That window closes on Aug. 13.

Since the window opened, 23 lawsuits have been filed against the Diocese of Ogdensburg, headed by Bishop Terry LaValley.

“We want to be transparent,” Diocese Director of Communications Darcy Fargo said. “The diocese is made of the people who reside in the 12,000 square miles the diocese encompasses, and they deserve to know where we stand.”

Bishop Terry LaValley, Diocese of Ogdensburg (Photo provided)

“We anticipate that more lawsuits may be filed, and we are unable at this time to determine the total number of claims that will be made while the CVA window is open,” the message read.

While the diocese will continue to focus on its mission, it still needs to consider the financial situation the lawsuits have caused.

“With the help of professionals, we are evaluating our diocesan assets to determine how we can maintain our mission while addressing the needs and claims of victims. We are determining what insurance coverage might be available to help us address the claims of victims.”

The message also noted that the diocese was considering bankruptcy.

“Chapter 11 reorganization has proven to be a positive way for other Catholic dioceses to address victim claims in the most fair and equitable manner possible, while maintaining vital ministries,” the message read. “For this reason, it is one of the options being considered by our Diocese. No decision has yet been made.”

The letter noted that parishioners could find more information on the Responding to Currents Questions page of its website at rcdony.org/rcq.

“The intention is to keep the page updated as more questions arise,” Fargo said.

The page was launched in conjunction with the release of the letter and has a few more details than the letter, Fargo said.


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