There appear to be few signs of progress in settlement negotiations...

There appear to be few signs of progress in settlement negotiations between clergy sex abuse victims and the Diocese of Rockville Centre. Credit: Danielle Silverman

Attorneys for survivors of Catholic clergy sexual abuse on Long Island say they are outraged the church in Syracuse has reached a settlement for $100 million while negotiations locally have dragged on for nearly three years. 

The Diocese of Rockville Centre says it's "grateful" for the upstate settlement, but at home, any deal between the Catholic Church and survivors will have to be fair toward victims while also allowing the diocese to remain financially viable.

Either way, reaching a similar agreement anytime soon appears a long shot, according to attorneys on the case.

“Syracuse made a decision that they weren’t going to spend their money fighting survivors and the Diocese of Rockville Centre has apparently made the opposite decision,” said Jordan Merson, a Manhattan-based attorney who represents some of the survivors on Long Island.

Church officials denied that, and said they are still working toward a solution.

“We are grateful that the Diocese of Syracuse has reached a settlement,” said Sean Dolan, a spokesman for the Diocese of Rockville Centre.

“As it has throughout its Chapter 11 process,” Dolan added, “the Diocese of Rockville Centre is continuing to work toward a global settlement that fairly compensates survivors and allows the diocese and parishes to continue their missions.”

Syracuse filed for bankruptcy in June 2020, while Rockville Centre followed that October. Both dioceses had said they were facing financial ruin because of the state Child Victims Act.

The CVA allowed people to file lawsuits against the church, schools and other institutions, regardless of how long ago the alleged abuse took place. When the dioceses declared bankruptcy, the cases — including about 600 in Rockville Centre — were transferred to federal bankruptcy court, where the sides have been negotiating settlements.

Last week, Syracuse said it had reached one.

"I can tell you as shocking as the settlement amount may seem to leaders of our own parishes and other Catholic entities, more appalling and heart-rending to me is the pain and mistreatment experienced by the survivors of child and adult sexual abuse at the hands of those they thought they could trust,” Syracuse Bishop Douglas J. Lucia wrote in a letter to parishioners.

Jeff Anderson, a Minnesota-based attorney also representing some Long Island survivors, said the Syracuse settlement “foreshadows what can be done when you have a diocese and a bishop who respond to the pressure put on them by the survivors.”

“So far the diocese in Rockville Centre has been intransigent, has been belligerent, and has been combative, and as a result they have not even come close to doing right or getting it done,” he said.

The judge overseeing Rockville Centre’s bankruptcy, Martin Glenn, has indicated he may take the unusual step of ending the proceedings because they have gone on so long. That would send the abuse cases back to civil court. He has set a deadline of Oct. 31 for an agreement.

Dolan said the diocese “appreciates the timeframe for settlement recently set out for all parties by Judge Glenn.”

Attorneys for the survivors say they are doubtful an agreement will be reached by then, and are appalled by the amount of legal fees that have piled up.

The legal costs “have become astronomical,” said Paul Mones, a Los Angeles-based attorney who represents survivors here. The money “could have been allocated to the survivors, who really deserve it.”

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