March 8, 2005 by Canadian Underwriter
The Roman Catholic Episcopal Corp. of St. George’s in Newfoundland has filed a notice of intent to file a bankruptcy proposal. The filing would stay proceedings in civil actions against the diocese, including those filed since 1991 on behalf of 36 victims of sexual abuse by St. George’s former priest, Kevin Bennett.
The diocese says it needs time to come up with a better means to handle its creditor and compensation obligations. It adds it is currently reviewing its resources, including insurance coverage. "The ability of the corporation to access insurance coverage to assist in payment of the claims is still an unresolved question and is being addressed by legal counsel," notes a diocese statement.
Bennett was sentenced in 1990 on charges of sexually abusing young men over a period of 20 years and served four years in prison. Following the trial, lawsuits began to pour in, amounting to more than $50 million in claims. In March, 2004 the Supreme Court of Canada found the diocese "directly and vicariously liable" for claims by 36 of the individuals.
“No amount of money can compensate for the abhorrent taking of innocence, which is priceless,” says Bishop of St. George’s, Most Rev. Douglas Crosby. “We are determined to treat the victims fairly with the greatest possible value of our assets. We are asking them to work with us so that we can all move past the horror that has brought us to this place.”
If the plan of compensation devised by the diocese is not approved by creditors and claimants, the diocese will become bankrupt and a trustee will be appointed to liquidate its assets.