Plaintiffs' lawyer dismisses Church's plea of poverty

Plaintiffs' lawyer dismisses Church's plea of poverty | Insurance Business

A lawyer representing victims of sexually abusive priests is dismissing claims that the church being sued is out of cash.

Rob Talach is representing 26 people who have filed a suit against the Archdiocese of Moncton for failing to protect them from sexual abuse. Talach made the statement after the church recently claimed that it was running out of cash.

Register for our exclusive CE webinar Cyber Insurance 101, and get covered on selling cyber.

Last week, Archbishop Valéry Vienneault told CBC News that the archdiocese’s funds had essentially run dry, and that it could not compensate victims. The church had spent $10.6 million on 109 claims between 2012 and 2014.

“We had money — the diocese had money, but doesn’t anymore,” Vienneault remarked.

Talach, however, claimed that the church has financial depth, pointing at its considerable real estate assets as one potential source of cash.

“We ran the properties that are held in the name of the Archdiocese of Moncton,” Talach explained. “There’s 144. We then took the assessed value on the books of those 144 and it’s roughly $29 million of assessed value.”

The lawyer also said that the church does not have to declare bankruptcy in the face of even more claims.

“In basic bankruptcy law, your debts have to exceed your assets,” he said. “The church doesn’t have a lot of debts because these parishes are paid for, and the few properties that I understand that were leveraged or did have some debt were let go.”

“Remember what they sell right? It’s thin air and blessed water,” he added. “They don’t have debts to suppliers, they don’t have huge labour costs. So to say they’re near bankruptcy now with 60 lawsuits, the math doesn’t get you there.” 

As a last resort, Talach said they can try appealing to the Vatican.

“The request should be made,” said Talach. “I know from the circles that I swim in that the Vatican has bailed out some larger American dioceses in trouble. Specifically Los Angeles. That was a huge settlement and some Vatican money made it there.”

In 2007, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles reached a settlement of over $600 million with more than 500 plaintiffs.

Currently, the Archdiocese of Moncton is embroiled in a legal dispute with its insurer, The Co-operators, arguing that it should be covering for some of the damages to victims.

Related stories:
Quebec Court of Appeal green lights class-action lawsuit against Catholic organization
Insurance suit sheds light on Ottawa clergy abuse scandal