Survivors of clergy sex abuse will have until May 31 to file claims against the Archdiocese of Baltimore in the church’s federal bankruptcy case.

Attorneys for the church, for survivors, and a bankruptcy judge agreed verbally to the deadline during a hearing Monday in federal court in Baltimore. Judge Michelle Harner said she would issue an order after the hearing to formally set the deadline.

That provides survivors about five months and two weeks more to submit paperwork about the abuse they suffered and apply for payment. Attorneys in the case expect more than 600 people to file claims against the church. The judge is also expected shortly to finalize the claims forms and submission process.

The deadline has been a subject of much interest; attorneys spent weeks negotiating a date. They sought to balance their desire to move the case forward while also allowing survivors enough time to join in.

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Archdiocese attorneys first proposed Feb. 26 — 150 days after the church filed for bankruptcy — as a starting place in the negotiations. A Baltimore Banner review found that 150 days would be about three months shorter than the average time allowed in the 35 other archdiocese and diocese bankruptcies across the U.S.

Survivors and advocates welcomed the additional time until May 31; that would be 245 days from the church’s bankruptcy filing.

“Well, it’s better than February,” attorney and survivor Teresa Lancaster said after the hearing. “I just want to get the word out to survivors that they need to move on this.”

Law firms across Maryland are soliciting survivors and advertising to help them file claims. Out-of-town attorneys have also opened offices here to participate in litigation against the church.

The archdiocese is represented by Blake Roth from the national law firm of Holland & Knight. He told the judge Monday that the church would allow some flexibility.

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“We certainly are not going to exclude from compensation someone who files 30 days late,” he said.

The archdiocese filed for bankruptcy on the eve of the Maryland Child Victims Act, which opened the door for a flood of lawsuits against the church over old instances of sexual abuse. That bill lifted the statute of limitations and set no new deadline for survivors to sue in state court. By filing for bankruptcy, the Archdiocese of Baltimore stopped the lawsuits in state court and forced survivors to seek payments through the bankruptcy process.

Even a May 31 deadline comes up short when compared to the Child Victims Act, which set no deadline for litigation in state court, said David Lorenz, the Maryland director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests or SNAP.

“They’re still circumventing the intent of the CVA, which had no ending,” he said after the hearing. “But given that we’re now where we are, I think we’re content.”

The Child Victims Act passed after the Maryland Office of the Attorney General released in April its yearslong investigation into the history of sex abuse within the Archdiocese of Baltimore. Investigators found 158 priests and other church figures accused of the “sexual abuse” and “physical torture” of more than 600 victims in the past 80 years.

The Archdiocese of Baltimore follows more than 30 other Catholic dioceses in the U.S. that have filed for bankruptcy when faced with a flood of claims over sexual abuse.

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