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Harrisburg Catholic Diocese bankruptcy likely to have little impact on parishes, schools but could have to contribute financially to abuse claims

Harrisburg Catholic Dioceses files bankruptcy to deal with child sexual abuse claims
Credit: FOX43

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A day after the Harrisburg Catholic Diocese filed for bankruptcy, questions remain about what the future will look like. In the short term, the diocese's lawyer says, it won't impact schools and churches.

RELATED: Harrisburg Diocese files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy

“It’s certainly not a surprise bankruptcy," said Juliet Moringiello, Widener University Commonwealth Law Associate Dean for Research and Faculty Development. 

Moringiello says bankruptcy likely won't have a major impact on parishes and schools in the diocese. 

“The Cathedral’s not going to be sold, the schools are not going to be sold," said Moringiello. "The idea is the diocese is going to be a functioning entity but the massive claims against it need to be dealt with in one forum.” 

Parishes and Catholic schools are their own separate entities from the diocese and bankruptcy was only filed by the Diocese of Harrisburg. 

Matt Haverstick, attorney for the diocese says, parishes could end up having to contribute to a mass tort fund used to settle abuse claims if they want to protect themselves from being sued. But, it's still too early to know if that will happen. 

RELATED: Diocese of Harrisburg pays $12.7 million to survivors of clergy sexual abuse

“I can’t say something is going to happen or absolutely never going to happen," said Haverstick. 

As the diocese moves forward in bankruptcy, it will figure out how to reorganize its finances. Abuse victims with claims against the diocese will have to wait until bankruptcy is settled to get paid.

“Sadly, what this means for the victims of the Harrisburg diocese is the issues are going to be strung out," said Marci Hamilton, Child U.S.A CEO.

Hamilton says, this is not that she had hoped for, for the victims of clergy sex abuse. 

“This is all about wealth, and image protection and avoiding the discovery these victims deserve," said Hamilton. "It’s a real kick in the gut.” 

An emergency bankruptcy meeting for the Harrisburg Diocese will be held Friday, February 21st at 9:30 a.m.