Proposed Chapter 11 Amendment
Will Support Child Sex Abuse Survivors
Congresswoman Deborah Ross introduced the bill on Thursday

Philadelphia, Pa. and via Zoom, April 18, 2024 – As the leading think tank fighting for the rights of child sex abuse victims, CHILD USA is proud to endorse a bill we have long fought for that will provide more justice for survivors. Representative Deborah Ross, D-North Carolina, announced via Zoom today the introduction of the Closing Bankruptcy Loopholes for Child Predators Act of 2024. The Congressional bill will combat the misuse of bankruptcy filings by organizations facing civil judgments in child sex abuse cases. Representative Claudia Tenney, R-New York, co-sponsors the bill.

CHILD USA Founder and CEO Marci Hamilton accompanied Reps. Ross and Tenney for the announcement. They are also joined by survivors, including the following who spoke today:

Katie Halberg, Committee Chair of the Franciscan Friars Bankruptcy Proceedings;
Doug Kennedy, Co-Chair of the Official Committee representing 82,000 Survivors in the Boy Scouts Bankruptcy;
Steve Moreno, Co-Chair of the San Francisco Archdiocese Survivor’s Committee; and
Paul Jan Zdunek, chair on the committee of Unsecured Creditors for the Roman Catholic Archbishop of Baltimore case.

The press conference was recorded. A link to the conference was made available via RSVP.

Hamilton declared it a good day for child sex abuse prevention. “Chapter 11 has become a refuge for institutions that have endangered children and coddled child abusers,” said Hamilton. “It silences the victims, lets the bad institutions avoid discovery, and hides the truth from the public while at the same time compensating victims with mere pennies on the dollar.”

This bill amends Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code, which organizations have taken advantage of to deny justice to child sex abuse survivors. Since 2003, organizations in which abuse historically has been rampant, such as Catholic dioceses, Boy Scouts of America, and USA Gymnastics have used bankruptcy filings to shield them from full civil justice.

“For far too long, organizations that previously turned a blind eye to horrendous and unspeakable abuse have escaped full liability for their actions by filing for bankruptcy,” said Congresswoman Ross. “Survivors of child sex abuse deserve to seek justice for the trauma they endured, but loopholes in our bankruptcy system have allowed large organizations to avoid the consequences of their negligence and abuse. There is no solution that can reverse the trauma that these individuals have experienced, but this legislation will get us one step closer to a justice system where survivors have a fair chance of fighting for the remedies they are owed.”

“Unacceptable loopholes in our legal system currently allow organizations guilty of child sexual abuse to exploit bankruptcy laws, denying victims justice and stalling the legal progress,” said Congresswoman Tenney. “By obstructing discovery and silencing victims, these entities prolong court proceedings and deprive victims of the justice they rightfully deserve. While the Closing Bankruptcy Loopholes for Child Predators Act cannot erase the pain inflicted, it seeks to address these injustices and offer victims a semblance of the justice they rightly demand.”

The proposed amendment, however, will make Chapter 11 more humane for child sex abuse survivors. The bill would allow for victim impact statements, ensuring that survivors have a voice to speak out in the process. It would also amend Sections 524 and 111 of the bankruptcy code, allowing survivors to come forward when they are ready and requiring the debtors to respond to discovery. Additionally, the bill would prevent a court from issuing orders to seal evidence of child sex abuse crimes other than to protect the survivor. The amendment also would require the use of independent forensic accountants in the review of a debtor’s or a third party’s assets, thus preventing an organization from shielding their assets when they file for bankruptcy.

This amendment is even more necessary as states eliminate or extend statutes of limitations, resulting in more civil suits against organizations that have covered up child sexual abuse. Chapter 11 has been turned into a weapon that favors bad actors and silences victims. The introduction of this bill is another step toward ensuring that survivors get the justice they deserve from the institutions that harmed them.

We also are proud to provide the below statements from our survivors who support the amendment **Some materials may be triggering for survivors, and it is advised to explore in a manner that is conscious of one’s own well-being**

Survivor statement from Katie Halberg, Committee Chair of the Franciscan Friars Bankruptcy Proceedings:
The existing bankruptcy process denies survivors the opportunity for discovery while diminishing us to mere creditors. It lacks empathy and understanding, perpetuating a dehumanizing and re-traumatizing experience. The introduction of this code reform represents a significant step forward in ensuring that survivors are not further victimized by the bankruptcy process. By introducing these amendments, you are sending a powerful message to survivors everywhere: that our stories matter, that our pain is valid, and that our voices need to be heard.

Survivor statement from Doug Kennedy, who served as the Co-Chair of the Official Committee representing 82,000 Survivors in the Boy Scouts Bankruptcy:
Having spent the last four years of my life as a part of the Boy Scouts’ Bankruptcy and serving as the Co-Chair of the Official Committee representing 82,000 Survivors, I can’t stress enough the importance of this legislation. It alters a bankruptcy process that has been perverted for the benefit of the organizations that harbored our abusers. It provides opportunities to shed light on those who have been protected for far too long and continue to abuse youth. Having heard the stories of thousands of Survivors, it also does something critical to providing the smallest sense of compassion for Survivors–it gives them a voice. Providing an opportunity for victim’s impact statements will give a voice to the voiceless and make courts aware of the impact that organizations’ actions, and especially inaction, produced. In the Boy Scouts Bankruptcy, hundreds of Survivors wrote the court to tell their stories. For most, it was the first time they had done so and they found their words buried in a docket that now contains over 11,000 documents. Allowing Impact Statements, and Survivors knowing that the bankruptcy process recognizes the importance of truly understanding what happened, are all critical to healing. Bankruptcy now treats Survivors as another line of creditors on a spreadsheet. We’re more than that and we deserve better. This legislation makes that clear; I support it. My thanks to CHILD USA and the Sponsors, and I hope every elected official will do the same to show that their concern for Survivors of sexual abuse is more than talk–it’s action.

Survivor statement from Charlie D’Estries, who serves on the Diocese of Rockville Center Bankruptcy committee:
Regarding the bill, I agree survivors should be allowed to research documents, secret files and any discovery that pertains to their abuse. Religious institutions must not be allowed to shield sensitive information that protects the abuser. As a UCC member, I have had access to files that have given me more information regarding my own abuse case; this should be available to all those who have been abused. Let’s stop the charade that says protecting abusers is a high priority.

Survivor statement from Richard Tollner, Treasurer of the Board at CHILD USA and Chairman of the Diocese of Rockville Centre Unsecured Creditors Committee:
I am Richard Tollner Chairman of the Diocese of Rockville Centre Unsecured Creditors Committee, the largest church Bankruptcy ever in the United States, likely the world. I am a Catholic Church sex abuse victim. I speak of Bankruptcy Law abuse, as tool used to defer, deflect and prevent adequate compensation to victims of child sex abuse. Our committee has rejected the Diocese of Rockville Centre’s offer. This after nearly four years of negotiation, resulting in an expense of $100 million dollars in fees with ZERO results. There has not been a single dollar of compensation for those sexually abused Catholic children. This means the bankruptcy Judge will be asked to dismiss the case and send us back into civil court to start a process allowed by New York’s Child Victims Act passed over FIVE years ago.

This is Justice denied. Victims have died waiting for justice, their families subject to deeper grief on the loss of their loved ones and to date, nonexistent justice. The Bankruptcy Laws as written allows asset heavy corporations with an ability to pay, and remain operating, from Civil Lawsuits. The Bankruptcy Law is used to penalize an aging group of molested, abused, and raped children. Their lives have been permanently affected. This in order to reduce the financial burden of these corporations, who have the assets, an ability to pay, and remain operating. Most of all they have a responsibility to compensate their sexually abused child victims, instead of guarding their bottom lines.

Survivor statement sent from Michael Carey of the Franciscan Friars Bankruptcy Committee in California:
We are not an old statute of limitations that won’t conveniently go away. Our pain and suffering has not expired under the time barred and old statute of limitations. We are human beings who were children when we had our youth ripped from us, torn suddenly and without warning, because we either had the very bad luck to run across a Franciscan Friar or our parents sent us to learn math, science, history, religion, and about the kindness of Jesus Christ and Saint Francis of Assisi at Saint Anthony’s Seminary. Instead of learning good and wholesome subjects, the men of evil at Saint Anthony’s initiated us into a life of pain, anxiety, PTSD, anger, fear, withdrawal from society, failed grades, and failed relationships because of the perverted sexual acts of lust crazed Franciscan Friars. As young innocents, we learned from unholy pedophiles, men of Satan who gratified their evil sexual desires upon us without remorse or consideration for the damage and lifetime of harm they were doing to our hearts and souls. Priests taught us the ugliness of sin. The Franciscan Order and the Roman Catholic Church, by your vial actions against us when we were just children, you condemned us to a lifetime in hell and with that you took the Catholic Religion with its rituals of incense, genuflection, Holy water, the sign of the cross, mass, and confession from us. But you did not take God from us because we survived in our private hells despite your damnation and we are here now as testament to God’s will.
Friars form the Franciscan Order sexually assaulted and molested us when we were particularly vulnerable, alone, and helpless. They did so in spite of their holy vows to Christ, God, and Saint Francis. On at least one occasion, the Franciscan Order’s superiors and supervisors in the Roman Catholic Church inserted a known hebephile as dean of discipline, school nurse, and religion teacher at an all-boys’ high school. The hebephile with his new position of absolute authority, continued attacking children under his supervision, under the scrutiny of his Franciscan Friar superiors, and with the help of his peers as he had done previously, and without any concern for consequences from Rome or his immediate superiors. Before this Franciscan monster passed on his way to hell, he admitted to molesting over 200 boys. Some of us Survivors were his victims. Child survivors of sexual exploitation and molestation struggle with shame, revulsion, embarrassment, anxiety, PTSD, and other mental illnesses the rest of their lives. To revisit the horrors of an assault by a trusted priest who represents and speaks for God can bring on extreme anxiety, depression, suicidal ideations, and nightmares, at the least. It can take decades and great courage for a child to mature and to be able to eventually drag from the depths of a soul the buried disgraceful memories of horrific sexual acts and then describe the trauma which they underwent. It can take a “Me too” movement to help Survivors learn that we are not alone or to blame for the Franciscan Order’s abominations.
We were children, not yet grown or just beginning puberty, when our futures were destroyed by demonic Franciscan Priests who used against us our fear of damnation, our fear of God, our fear of strict Catholic parents, and the very real fear of becoming outcasts in our own families if we ever spoke the truth. They used our belief in the Saints, the Apostles, the Virgin Mary, and Jesus Christ himself to exert their powerful influence over us, control us, and prey on us in order to take their sexual pleasure on our young soft bodies. The Franciscan Order used our innocence, our childlike ignorance, they used our immature bodies, our fear of God, and our shame to silence us. We are people who, as sheltered Catholic children, became targets and we experienced obscenity at the hands of Satan himself, the King of Hell, embodied in the Franciscan Priests. We were taught from kindergarten and through eight years of strict Catholic grammar school and our undeveloped brains were continuously brainwashed. Roman Catholic Priests represented God, they acted for God on earth, they spoke for God, and they represented God’s highest authority. In fact, we believed: the priests, if not immediately obeyed, could send us to hell with a mere wave of one foul sin-stained hand.
Evil Roman Catholic Franciscan Priests sexually gratified themselves with us and other children, over and over, and often for decades. The spawn of Satan did with us what they wished and often they did their despicable work in the light of day with the knowledge and blessing of their superiors who supported, encouraged, and protected their Roman Catholic pedophiles in the fraternal culture of the all-male Franciscan Order. Canon law did not protect us, the Pope did not protect us, Bishops did not protect us, no Catholic protected us from the Princes of Darkness. However, we survived, albeit emotionally, physically, and economically damaged for life. We Survivors are victims of the very Franciscan Order that Saint Francis founded and we have illnesses of depression, PTSD, and anxiety, just to begin, as a result of our exposure to vial men of the Cloth claiming to represent Saint Francis. We need expensive treatments to learn how to cope and to continue to survive. We need trained help in order to overcome suicidal ideations, nightmares, and long hours of insomnia in the black of night.
Those things that other children experience like safety, love, support, and a nightmare-free life are priceless and irreplaceable, but we lost all of that! The Survivors had those basic rights stolen from us by the Franciscan Order. How did men like that, cruel animalistic demons in brown robes, carnal beasts not yet risen or crawled from the primordial muck become priests? How could other priests, their peers who made the three Franciscan vows, priest vows, and who lived side by side with the predators and knew them for what they were, who supported them in the role of child molesters, and covered up for those vial scum and their gluttonous evil for decades, stand idly by and still call themselves men of God and priests? How could such men who knew that children under their care were being targeted and sexually preyed upon by their fiendish associates, stand idly by and do nothing? Apparently, the practice of pedophilia and sex with boys in the Order was prevalent among the Franciscans and supported by the Roman Catholic Church with a wink and a nod.
The “Me Too” movement has helped some of us to finally be released from our decades long prison of shame and silence. We the survivors are here now in spite of our stigma. We have a voice, and we will be heard. We the Survivors say to the Franciscan Order, “Remember your vows of poverty, chastity, and obedience and look to your souls, Franciscans. Practice what you preach or you are nothing more than fraudsters and tricksters. God is watching you now and we, the Survivors, are not an old statute of limitations that won’t conveniently go away.” We were innocent and naive children under your Franciscan Order’s care and now we are grown adults who survived the Devil’s work and the evil cruelty that your Order did to us in the name of God. You dammed us and cast us into the darkness, but God is with us and we are before you now seeking justice. If you believe in God, the Saints, and believe what you profess in your sermons, if you believe in Jesus Christ’s teachings, practice what you preach! If you believe in humility, kindness, and healing, practice what you preach. If you disavow worldly possessions as is your Order’s primary claim, practice what you preach and release your worldly possessions to the Survivors you have harmed so egregiously and in so doing release us from this new hell called bankruptcy.

For more information about CHILD USA’s endorsement, contact:
Mauri Rapp, Content Manager, CHILD USA

CHILD USA is the leading nonprofit think tank working to end child abuse and neglect in the United States. CHILD USA engages in high-level legal and social science research and analysis to derive the best public policies to end child abuse and neglect in America. CHILD USA produces evidence-based solutions and information needed by policymakers, organizations, media, and society as a whole to increase child protection and the common good.



February 2, 2024

For more information: Marci Hamilton, 215-353-8984


Following the grilling of the Tech Giants by Senators this week, CHILD USA endorsed three bills to push back against their abject failures to protect children: The STOP CSAM Act of 2023, the EARN IT Act, and KOSA.  We stand by the latter two, but new information leads us to now denounce the STOP CSAM ACT of 2023.

Before getting into the details, we want to make this absolutely clear:  Big Tech has endangered our children for profit, and it is irrational to think they can be trusted to become protective of children.  The ONLY people who can create a safety net for children from online harm are members of Congress.  Lawmakers harshly questioned Tech’s representatives like Mark Zuckerbeg on Wednesday, but they must pass the EARN IT Act and KOSA to actually make children safer.

While the STOP CSAM Act has some good elements, Sec. 2255A was amended on January 16 to include a poison pill that was clearly drafted by Big Tech’s lobbyists: to bring a lawsuit for the harm done, the victim must prove the online service provider acted intentionally.  That is a virtually impossible standard for the victims to meet.  

The STOP CSAM Act may look good but don’t be fooled—with Sec. 2255A it is a gift to Mark Zuckerberg and all the rest so they can continue to make money while shutting the many victims they have created out of court.  It should be called the Immunize Big Tech Act.  

James Marsh, Chair of the CHILD USA Board of Directors is the leading expert on these issues and has written a blog in which he says that the so-called Stop CSAM Act is the worst bill for crime victims in 30 years: “Congress says it wants a reckoning with big tech—the new traffickers and criminals exploiting our children. Sadly, Stop CSAM doesn’t make things better, it makes things worse.  Imagine a world where, in order to hold the Catholic Church accountable, the bishop would need to know that a child was being raped and that he had 48 hours to stop the rape which was occurring. If the bishop did not know about each individual occurrence of child rape, the Church could not be held responsible.”

Marci Hamilton, Founder and CEO of CHILD USA, states, “Any lawmaker that chooses to move on the STOP CSAM Act is choosing to endanger even more children in the online space and to let big tech continue to obscenely profit from children’s deaths.  How tragic it would be after the tough talk at the hearing for lawmakers to now serve big tech’s interests and codify no justice for the victims and their families.”

CHILD USA and CHILD USAdvocacy urge lawmakers to take a child-centered approach to this horrific 21st-century problem.  Pass the EARN IT Act and KOSA.  

Despite its name, Senators supporting the STOP CSAM Act with Sec. 2255A is a gift to Big Tech and a guarantee more kids and families will suffer.