Buffalo Diocese secret files
Lawyers and survivors of childhood sexual abuse are reviewing more than 25,000 pages of internal Buffalo Diocese documents relating to clergy abuse, diocesan finances and personnel files.
Diocese lawyers began handing over the files in December under the terms of an agreement that they hashed out with abuse survivors who make up the committee of unsecured creditors in the diocese’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization, according to multiple sources.
Whether the general public will be able to examine the confidential records someday remains unclear and likely will be subject to intense negotiations during the bankruptcy proceedings.
In exchange for the records, the creditors committee agreed not to press forward with sex abuse lawsuits against individual parishes and other Catholic entities. The committee also agreed to keep confidential the contents of the diocese documents – at least for now.
Ultimately, though, many survivors want public disclosure of diocese abuse files that have been secret for decades.
“It means a lot to them to find out what those facts are. They’re almost always primarily motivated by a desire to know the truth and to expose the truth and then to be able to see that it doesn’t happen again,” said Marci A. Hamilton, CEO and legal director of Child USA, a nonprofit organization that works to prevent child abuse and neglect.
Hamilton and many abuse survivors have said that bishops can simply disclose files, instead of allowing lawyers to use them as a negotiable item in bankruptcy. Bishop Michael W. Fisher, the new leader of the Buffalo Diocese who will be installed on Jan. 15, hasn’t specifically addressed the question of whether he would release the diocese’s confidential files on clergy abuse.