If the Buffalo diocese files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, what's next?

Dec 9, 2019

Chapter 11 bankruptcy is an option for a Buffalo diocese that is facing numerous lawsuits along with state and federal investigations. There have been several filings in recent years by religious orders or Dioceses around the country. So what comes next? Bankruptcy expert and UB Academic Affairs Vice-Dean Todd Brown spoke with Canisius College President John Hurley on the matter at this weekend’s Movement to Restore Trust symposium.

Todd Brown and John Hurley talking about bankruptcy
Credit Nick Lippa / WBFO News

With numerous lawsuits amidst the Buffalo clergy sex abuse crisis, Brown said most cases in other areas who have already dealt with this still moved towards resolution within a couple of years.

“Thankfully, a lot of the legal pathways have already been carved in other cases," he said. "Some of these issues that might have delayed this case or that case, we have a sort of reference to look to help address the questions up front in any case that’s filed now.”

The Rochester diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Sept. 12 of this year. That has led to some victims feeling "betrayed". Cases that would play out in civil court will proceed through the bankruptcy court process.

Brown said when it comes to projecting how a church will operate during bankruptcy, you can look at how Rochester has proceeded.  

“In these cases what you’ve seen is services are held, schools continue to have classes, and it’s because (the objective) is not to shut everything down. The objective is to keep things moving forward while at the same time providing a path for the resolution of these particular issues,” Brown said.

Three days after being introduced as the interim administrator for the Diocese of Buffalo, Bishop Edward Scharfenberger attended a Movement to Restore Trust symposium Saturday morning in what was his first public appearance since being appointed to the new position.

There are still questions regarding when and what information will be released. Scharfenberger said they don’t have a time table for things like potential bankruptcy or letting certain officials go.

He added he doesn’t want to make any decisions that do not take in to account the perspectives of all parties involved.