Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria LLP was in bankruptcy court this week representing child victims in their battle with the Diocese of Buffalo.
Partner, Rick Weisbeck, called out the child molesters masquerading as priests, former bishops, pastors, and other church officials describing them as “weak men who lack character” and who put their own interests above the interests of the child victims.
He stated that the child victims were sent to Catholic schools and churches to learn values that would guide them in adulthood to “always do the right thing”.
Instead, the children encountered priests, bishops, and other high church officials who failed to “do the right thing” and who were “weak men lacking moral courage” thereby harming these small innocent children for life.
Below is a summary version of the remarks made on behalf of the child victims in bankruptcy court this week.
The child victims that we represent oppose the application to extend the stay to non-bankrupt separately incorporated Catholic churches and schools located within the geographical area encompassed by the Diocese of Buffalo.
In order to fully understand the position of the child victims represented by Lipsitz Green Scime Cambria LLP and help the Court in its decision making process, it is important to set out how and why they have involuntarily ended up in this Court.
These child victims were sent by their parents to Catholic schools and churches because their parents thought that the church and the school would teach and imbue them with values that would guide them in their adulthood to do the right thing when they are making choices for themselves and others; when making an important decision and weighing the options in a decision making process and be guided by those moral and ethical values that they learned through a Catholic school education with the goal to “always do the right thing”.
After arriving at those schools and churches and up to today, there were numerous decisions made by weak men who lacked character which profoundly harmed these and other children. When weak men who lack character are granted the power to make decisions over other people, those weak men invariably make a decision in their self-interest and to the detriment of the individual with subordinate power. That is the reason weak men who lack character should never be granted power.
These young, innocent, powerless children knew no better. They were sent to the schools and churches by their parents and what they encountered were child molesters acting as priests.
The first set of weak men who lacked character were individuals who were unable to figure out how to have normal, intimate, physical, relationships with other adults and, at some point in time, these men were either priests or became priests. At that time, they were given that title within the Catholic church. That title conferred power on them within the parish church and/or the parish school, and, in society, they were put in an elevated position far beyond their weakness and lack of moral courage.
They could have figured out how to become involved with other adults in physically intimate relationships, but because they were weak, because they lacked character, they instead decided to exercise the power that was conferred upon them in this local church and parish and prey upon completely powerless children. Those child molesters, masquerading as priests, chose to exercise that power by raping, sodomizing, and/or sexually assaulting children for their own sexual desire and their own lust for power over other individuals. They had a choice, the right thing, was not to go near or touch those children in any sexual way, but they lacked strength and character. Instead, they were weak men who failed to do the right thing.
Eventually, individuals within those parishes, those churches and schools, in one way or another, had suspicions of or found out about the crimes the child molesters were committing upon children. Eventually, individuals within the Diocese of Buffalo, Bishops, assistant Bishops, auxiliary Bishops, acting Bishops, and other higher officials, also learned the crimes these child molesters were committing upon young children. Each of those men, when they gained that knowledge and was trying to decide what to do, in their heart and mind knew what the right thing was, and the right thing was to immediately remove the priests from any contact with children, report the crimes to appropriate law enforcement officials, and ensure that those child molesters were charged with crimes of rape, sodomy, and/or sexual assault and put in jail for those horrific crimes.
But these men, these Bishops, auxiliary Bishops, assistant Bishops, monsignors, etc., they also took into account other considerations when making decisions. They took into account that this child molester who has been conferred with the title “Priest” or “Father”, might lose that elevated position, might go to jail, that the Diocese of Buffalo itself might be tainted because the public would have knowledge of child molester priests in their midst. The bishops and auxiliary Bishops were also considering their own fate and what would happen to them if this scandal became public on their watch. They knew what the right thing to do was, but they elevated the interests of themselves, the interest of the Catholic church, and the interest of the child molester above what should have been the paramount consideration: protecting young, innocent children. They made that decision, and it was the wrong decision, because they were weak men who lacked character. A strong man with character not only knew what the right thing to do was but would have in fact done it. Although there would have been a scandal, it would have ended early, the cancer would have been excised before it spread and became malignant, the Diocese of Buffalo, the local parishes and schools would have begun the recovery process to rebuild the trust and reputation that they so desperately wanted to maintain.
These decision makers, these weak men who lacked character, made a decision to cover up those crimes, to send the child molesters to other far-flung locations so they could damage other young innocent children by raping them, sodomizing them, and/or sexually assaulting them. So not only did they cover up the crime, but they aided and abetted in new criminal acts. That caused further damage to new, young, innocent, children being sent to churches and schools by their parents to receive a Catholic education.
Years went by. These children who not only physically endured the rape, sodomy, and/or sexual assault continued to live, continued to grow and they became adults. Each and every one of these victims, every day of their life, lived with the crimes perpetrated upon them with anguish, heartache, confusion, pain, psychological damage. Each one of them has an individual story, many of whom turned to drugs or alcohol, many of whom couldn’t maintain intimate physical adult relationships, many of whom did not trust male authority figures, and experience other recurring, repeated social pathologies arising from being a child-victim of sexual assault.
At the same time, decades later, when these individuals were well into adulthood, the State of New York, through legislation, granted these child-victims, now adults out in the world, a power that they lacked when they were powerless children being victimized. The State of New York granted these child-victims the power and the right to bring these child molesters, these officials in the Catholic church, the pastors, the bishops, the auxiliary Bishops, the assistant Bishops, and other men of authority, into court to answer for these crimes; the actual crime of rape, sodomy, and sexual assault. The crimes committed by covering up those horrific acts and the crimes of aiding and abetting future sexual assaults by these child molesters on new and different children. Now they had the power to bring them into court to demand that the details of the crimes, the cover up, and the aiding and abetting, be revealed. These men would be put under oath and questioned about their failure to act, their failure to do the right thing, and their actions which were clearly wrong.
After these child-victims began to exercise that right and the power conferred upon them by the State of New York, the then bishop, auxiliary bishops, assistant bishops, and other men of power in the Diocese of Buffalo, had a decision to make and there was a right decision and a wrong decision. The right decision is the same decision that should have been made decades earlier. They should have allowed these child-victims to exercise that power to demand and require that each individual be questioned about the crimes they committed, the cover up they participated in, the aiding and abetting of new sexual crimes against different children, and required to completely reveal all the documentary evidence of the crimes committed and the cover up undertaken and the continued efforts to move child molesters from one parish to another. A scandal would have ensued. There would have been repercussions; people would have lost their jobs and positions of authority and power. But with that damage, the Diocese of Buffalo, the local churches and schools, could have begun to rebuild their institutions, step-by-step. These men knew that was the right thing to do, but there were other considerations that they took into account.
They knew that they could take away that power the child-victims were finally granted where they were finally on equal footing with the child molesters, the church, the school, and the diocese. These men knew that they could go into bankruptcy court and that the bankruptcy court, under law, would take that power away from these child-victims.
The attorney for the Diocese of Buffalo, in a public statement, implied that there would be a section of the law that may very well protect the local churches and schools without the need to file bankruptcy and that was the plan even before the bankruptcy petition was filed.
The bankruptcy court and the law surrounding bankruptcies was skewed in a way that the child molesters, the pastors, the head of the local churches and schools, the bishops, the auxiliary bishops, the assistant bishops, would not have to testify in court or at a deposition, They would not have to open up their files to the public, to the victims where their crimes were recorded on paper, where their moral failings were documented and making decisions were evident, and when considering those other factors that then bishop and his advisors and assistants, knew what the right thing to do was, but because they were weak men who lacked character, they chose instead to file bankruptcy thereby neutering the new power that these child-victims were granted.
Their goal in silencing victims is working by the mere passage of time. In the 3.5 years since the Diocese of Buffalo filed bankruptcy, 4 child-victims we represent have passed away. Our client’s have stated many times, “telling my story in front of a jury is just as important as the amount of money that I will receive”.
When they decided to file bankruptcy, the Diocese of Buffalo, without requiring each of the independent churches and schools to file bankruptcy, they knew they had another card in their hand to neuter the children without requiring the churches and schools to file bankruptcy. The decision by the Diocese of Buffalo had consequences far beyond this bankruptcy court. First, the decision has caused a generation of prospective parishioners to either leave or stay away from the Catholic church. If you talk to young people about Catholic church or Catholic education, they always have a negative comment any say that are “pedos” meaning pedophiles. That leads to the second consequence of the decision by the bishop of the Diocese of Buffalo to file bankruptcy. The second consequence is by protecting the child molesters and protecting themselves from revealing the full extent of the scandal, they tainted the men who are priests who are strong and have character because they are being painted with the brush of pedophile for the crimes committed by weak men who lacked character. That harms those good priests.
Now we find ourselves here today. Of course, the local parishes and schools, which are separate corporate entities, who have not filed bankruptcy, are here seeking the further extension of the protection this Court granted them against child-victims pursuing the cases against the churches and schools. Regardless of the decision this Court makes on this particular issue, there will come a day where the attorney for the Diocese of Buffalo will come into court, and he will be holding hands with the attorneys for the creditors committee that claims to be representing the child-victims. They will say to you, in words or substance, Judge, “we have been negotiating very hard for many years”. We have a package, a financial package that we put together where the contribution from all the stakeholders, the Diocese of Buffalo itself, the non-bankrupt churches and schools, some sum from insurance companies. And after paying hundreds of thousands, if not millions of dollars to these lawyers, and other professionals that on a monthly basis submit bills to you, they are going to say that this is the best we can do, Judge, and everything is going to work out fine, we have a schematic where each child-victim is going to get some money based on certain factors. There will be a cap on what the most anyone can get and a bottom cap on what the least anyone can get. This is going to, somehow, compensate these child-victims in a fair and equitable way. They will be expecting this Court to congratulate them on a job well-done; they will pat each other on the back.
You, Judge, at that point, will have a decision to make. Based on my education, training, and experience, I know that whatever sum of money they come to you in a package is not the most amount they can get. I urge you and our client-victims urge you to send them back and tell them to get more money. If you do, they will go away and they will come back. The second time, they will repeat themselves; it’s the best financial package that we can negotiate, we have squeezed everything possible, Judge. You will know that again, that is not the maximum package. You may send them away and tell them to get more money and they may very well go get money. Then they will come to you again, but at some point, in time, they are going to have a plan, and after all this a bankruptcy court and proceeding, and they are going to present it to you, and you are going to be inclined to approve it. Then at that point in time, when they have that tidy financial package together with the schematic about tiers of victims, tier 1, tier 2, tier 3, tier 4, tier 5, you will have a decision to make. You will be weighing many factors in that decision. On of those factors that we urge you, each and every one of our child-victims urge you to do, is to remember that the actions of the Catholic Diocese of Buffalo upon filing bankruptcy, neutered the power that was finally given to them by the State of New York to call these men into a court of law and account for their crimes, their cover up, and their aiding and abetting of new crimes by the child molesters.
Additionally, this plan revictimizes each of these child victims by dehumanizing them again in a different way. They are no longer individuals with their own particular individual set of problems resulting from the horrific crimes they suffered, but, instead, they are being dehumanized by being put into a tier as if they were simply some victim of a wide-spread consumer credit fraud. In some small way, you could give the child-victim that power back. You could ensure that they are not dehumanized and treated as a number in a tier system. You could approve the reorganization package with conditions. The condition is that any child-victim who demands accountability can come into this court, sit in a witness stand, testify under oath, with it being recorded, and demand that the current bishop and every former living bishop, auxiliary bishop, assistant bishop, and the current head of the local church and school where this child-victim was raped, sodomized, and/or sexually assaulted, attend that court hearing with two lay leaders from each parish or school. If the parish or school is closed, then the closest geographical school must attend this hearing. They must listen to the child victim describing the rape, sodomy, and/or sexual assault committed upon them and listen to the horrific pain and suffering they endured from that day forward to the day of the hearing. If you make that a condition of this reorganization package and the settlement package of the child-victims, you may very well have allowed these child-victims to imbue these present people of authority in the churches, schools, and Diocese, in some small way, with firsthand knowledge of these crimes so that the next time they are required to make an important decision about matters affecting many people, instead of being weak and lacking character, they will be strong and they will exercise the proper moral judgment, show strength of character, and make the right decision.
If you do that, Judge, sitting as a Judge of the Bankruptcy Court for the United States Court for the Western District of New York, at the end of day, when you go home, you will know and you will be able to say to yourself, I made the right decision.