Survivors of clergy sexual abuse are asking a judge to set aside time to speak during two upcoming hearings in the Archdiocese of Baltimore bankruptcy case, noting that they might otherwise have “no opportunity to be heard regarding the terrible and life-altering events they experienced as children.”

The Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors on Friday filed notice of its intent to facilitate the presentation of statements during upcoming hearings in the case on April 8 and May 20.

“Survivor voices have been silenced for many years,” wrote Alan Grochal, counsel to the creditors’ committee, in court documents. “This proceeding is likely the only opportunity that Survivors in Baltimore will have to seek acknowledgment and justice for the decades of isolation and pain they endured.”

The filing references comments that U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Michelle M. Harner made during previous hearings encouraging survivors to take part in the case. The creditors’ committee reported that allowing them to have a meaningful voice in the process will build trust and help with the chances of coming to a timely and fair settlement.

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The Diocese of Harrisburg in Pennsylvania and the Archdiocese of Agaña in Guam, the creditors’ committee stated, have allowed survivors to address the court in “an effort to acknowledge collectively the harm caused by decades of denial and silence.”

In court documents filed on Wednesday, Blake Roth, an attorney for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, wrote that it endorsed the request and stated that Archbishop William Lori will “personally attend on both occasions to hear directly from the survivors.”

“The Archdiocese supports an open and transparent process that can lend itself to healing for victim-survivors,” said Christian Kendzierski, a spokesperson for the Archdiocese of Baltimore, in an email. “This includes the Archdiocese’s support of an opportunity for victim-survivors to testify during proceedings in pursuit of an agreed-upon plan for a timely and fair global settlement.”

The chair of creditors’ committee, Paul Jan Zdunek, said he believes that there might be as many as six survivors who intend to speak at the hearing on April 8.

“This is a really important moment for survivors to give them the voice and to put human beings in the forefront here of all the legalese that we’ve been working on with the bankruptcy proceedings,” Zdunek said. “To put human stories in front of the court and the archbishop is both powerful and healing in some ways.”

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Though delivering statements can be scary and emotionally draining, it gives survivors another opportunity for justice besides financial compensation, said David Lorenz, who leads the Maryland chapter of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

Still, Lorenz said, “none of it is ever good enough.”

The Archdiocese of Baltimore filed for bankruptcy right before a new state law, the Child Victims Act of 2023, was set to go into effect, which would have opened the church to a flood of lawsuits related to sexual abuse.

The Maryland Office of the Attorney General also released a more than 450-page report in 2023 that detailed decades of allegations of sexual abuse and cover-ups within the Archdiocese of Baltimore.

Survivors of sexual abuse have until May 31 to file claims in the bankruptcy case.

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