November 20, 2009 / 3:04 PM / in 9 years

Diocese seeks OK for benefits to accused priests

Nov 20 (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, Delaware, has sought bankruptcy court approval to continue providing pensions and medical coverage to certain priests accused of sexually abusing children, court papers showed.

The diocese said in a filing on Thursday that it has “an obligation under Canon Law to care for retired clergy” and sought to continue providing medical coverage to the defrocked priest Francis DeLuca.

“While several priests have been dismissed from the public ministry and have laicization proceedings pending against them, for the time being they remain clergy whom the Debtor (the diocese) supports, and must continue to support,” the filing said.

The Catholic Diocese of Wilmington became the seventh in the United States to seek bankruptcy protection last month, temporarily delaying eight civil trials that were about to start in sex-abuse lawsuits involving priests.

The bishop for the diocese has said that bankruptcy will prevent one civil judgment from wiping out its ability to pay all alleged victims, and therefore is a more equitable way to settle the outstanding claims.

Attorneys for 142 alleged victims of abuse have asked the court to ensure the diocese does not use its funds, which will be used to settle the abuse claims, for payments or benefits to accused priests and former priests.

Since a national sex-abuse scandal broke in 2002 involving priests, the Wilmington diocese has settled eight cases for an average of about $780,000 each.

The case is: Catholic Diocese of Wilmington, U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Delaware, No. 09-13560. (Reporting by Santosh Nadgir in Bangalore; Editing by Mike Miller)

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