Fearing Rush of Abuse Suits, Archdiocese to File Chapter 11

New Maryland law removes statute of limitations
By Newser Editors and Wire Services
Posted Sep 29, 2023 3:40 PM CDT
Baltimore Archdiocese to File Chapter 11 Over Abuse Suits
Baltimore Archbishop William Lori leads a funeral Mass in Baltimore in 2017.   (AP Photo/Patrick Semansky, File)

The Archdiocese of Baltimore announced Friday that it filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization days before a new state law goes into effect removing the statute of limitations on child sex abuse charges and allowing victims to sue their abusers decades after the fact. The step will "allow the archdiocese to equitably compensate victim-survivors of child sexual abuse" by clergy while the local Catholic Church continues its mission and ministries, Archbishop William Lori said in a statement posted on the archdiocese website, the AP reports. The move is the best way to compensate survivors, since the archdiocese's resources would have otherwise been exhausted on litigation, Lori said.

"Staggering legal fees and large settlements or jury awards for a few victim-survivors would have depleted our financial resources, leaving the vast majority of victim-survivors without compensation, while ending ministries that families across Maryland rely on for material and spiritual support," he said. On Sunday, Maryland will end its statute of limitations for filing civil lawsuits for child sexual abuse against institutions. Victims are already planning to file suits when the law takes effect. Lawmakers included a provision in the law that would put lawsuits on hold until the Supreme Court of Maryland can decide on the law's constitutionality, should it be challenged. (A state investigation found the archdiocese often did little to stop "horrific and repeated abuse" by clergy.)

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