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Wilmington Diocese Files for Bankruptcy

WILMINGTON, Del. (CN) - The Catholic Diocese of Wilmington filed for bankruptcy this week, the day before eight clerical sex-abuse trials were to begin. The Diocese estimates liabilities in the $100 million to $500 million range, tied to 142 sex abuse claims against priests as well as pension fund obligations and other bills and debts.

The Delaware Legislature in 2007 imposed a 2-year statute of limitations for adult victims of sex abuse. One hundred forty-two cases had been filed by the time the moratorium closed in July, Delaware newspapers reported.

The Wilmington Diocese sought Chapter 11 protection on Sunday night, on the eve of the trial of eight priests in Kent County Court. Those trials and 22 more have been put on hold by the filing, which was greeted with vitriolic comments by plaintiffs' attorneys, who accused the church of "fraudulent tactics" to hide its "complicity" in the abuse.

Wilmington is the seventh Roman Catholic diocese in the United States to declare bankruptcy due to the priestly sex abuse scandals.

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