The Catholic Church is facing another torrent of lawsuits as the crisis of historic abuse at the hands of its clergy continues to spiral out control.
The deluge comes after 15 states nullified the statute of limitations for at least a year, providing abuse victims with a so-called “look back window” during which they must file their cases. As a result, law firms seeking to represent survivors have been inundated with calls for help.
One such attorney in high demand is Adam Slater. Ironically, as he sits in his law office at “Slater, Slater, Schulman LLP,” in downtown Manhattan, he is gifted with a birds eye view over the grand, gothic architecture of St. Patrick’s Cathedral.
Slater’s firm is drumming up business by running ads that inform potential victims that they can obtain financial compensation if they file against the Archdiocese covering the area in which the abuse took place. Once potential clients are connected through the office’s Long Island call centre, they are patched through to the bustling team of paralegals in New York City. The legal team is then forced to pick through the person’s retelling of the abuse, which could be a pretty horrific job.
“This type of case isn’t for every law firm. It’s not a hit-in-the-rear car accident,” Slater told the Associated Press. “There is work to be done.”
So far, the abuse scandal is costing the Catholic Church in a big way, particularly in New York. In September, The Diocese of Rochester became the first of the state’s eight dioceses to declare bankruptcy as a result of the burgeoning legal action, which is thought to have totalled around half a billion dollars. So far, some 20 dioceses across the country have made the same declaration of financial ruin.
And it’s going to get worse. The AP anticipates that the latest surge of cases could total more than 5,000, with the Catholic church being threatened with some $4 billion in compensatory payouts. The Diocese of Buffalo has already been forced to sell off a $1.5 million mansion — the previous residence to one of its bishops — in order to pay victims of the 100 priests it admits have been “credibly accused.”
A few years ago, in a bid to save his Archdiocese from capitulation, New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan set up a designated compensation fund for victims so that the church would not have to strip money from its various programs. It has since paid $67 million to 338 alleged victim, with most victims receive upwards of $200,000 each — sums that will simply become unsustainable if the cases continue to tumble in at such a high rate.
Graver still, a handful of experts believe that the church is staring down a financial crisis that may threaten to encroach upon the towering walls of the Vatican itself.
Indeed, formidable LA sexual abuse attorney Raymond P. Boucher has suggested that the high seat of the Catholic Church should start releasing cash through the pawning of its precious art; the Vatican is thought to be in possession of around $8 billion in assets, much which is kept out of sight.
“They have them just in the vaults,” he said of the priceless works. “They don’t even have to take anything off the walls.” The attorney said.