Diocese of Buffalo will release church documents in its bankruptcy case

Updated: Jan. 13, 2021 at 10:36 AM CST
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NEW ORLEANS (WVUE) -The Diocese of Buffalo is now in the process of releasing more than 25,000 pages of church documents as part of its ongoing Chapter 11 case.

“The Diocese of Buffalo has agreed to produce records pertaining to the childhood sexual abuse of many, many survivors and these include priest files, the personnel files of the perpetrators of the abuse,” said attorney Ilan Scharf.

Under the agreement, survivors there will not move forward with litigation against church related entities like schools. Scharf represents the victims’ committee in the Buffalo bankruptcy proceedings.

“It’s not just a big win, it’s very important for survivors globally,” said Scharf. His firm also represents the victims’ committee in the Archdiocese of New Orleans bankruptcy case, but he is not commenting on those proceedings.

Scharf says it’s too early to say whether the Buffalo documents will eventually be released to the public. But, he points to the Archdiocese of Sante Fe Chapter 11 case where the church agreed to release documents and make them public with survivor names redacted.

“They’re actually going to be released to a university so that researchers can have access to the documents and help the public and scholars understand how this happened in part with the intention of making sure that we know how to prevent this kind of abuse in the future,” said Scharf.

Last week, we asked New Orleans Archbishop Gregory Aymond about releasing church documents,”my response to that is that we release when we can, and there is no organization in the world who would just turn over their personnel files to another person, we can’t do that,” said Aymond.

“The Diocese of Rochester has released personnel files. The Diocese of Buffalo is releasing personnel files. The Archdiocese of Santa Fe has released personnel files,” said Scharf.

Both Scharf and survivor Kathryn Robb with the nonprofit Child USAdvocacy say the release of information in these types of cases is important for healing.

“Essentially what happens when these institutions file Chapter 11 bankruptcy is they get to reshuffle things, right, they get to have a new day and what happens to survivors and victims is their voice really becomes sort of a cold number in a mathematical spreadsheet,” said Robb.

“It’s really mind boggling that a church would continue to fight to withhold documents when the effect of releasing those documents is tremendously helpful for the victims as well as the community.”

In a statement Tuesday, the Archdiocese of New Orleans said:

“These are matters concerning records of the archdiocese to be decided by the federal courts. We will not offer comment and believe it unfair to try matters and issues pending before the federal courts in the media.”

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