Archdiocese of Santa Fe Protects Itself at the Expense of Survivors with Bankruptcy Move

A new Associated Press story succinctly lays out the deceptive steps Catholic officials take to keep their assets in bankruptcy cases and why bankruptcy cases often work out poorly for survivors.

As the AP points out, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe has spent hundreds of thousands of dollars on legal fees and lawyers so their cry of poverty rings hollow. This is only exacerbated by the fact that much of those fees were racked up fighting against survivors in civil court, so it’s hard to see how the move to file for bankruptcy puts survivors first, as Archbishop John Wester has claimed.

Actions speak louder than words, and given the way that bankruptcies have been handled by other dioceses, we expect the Archdiocese of Santa Fe’s actions to mirror those seen in places like Milwaukee, where then-Bishop Dolan transferred more than $50 million to a cemetery fund in order to keep the assets hidden, or in St. Paul – Minneapolis, where church officials fought to use absurdly low valuations on church property.

Another reason that bankruptcy court can prove to be a good move for the church but bad for survivors is that settlements provided through bankruptcy court typically allow church officials to keep disclosures of abuse in house. Without having to report these allegations to the police or otherwise making them public, a full accounting of the number of abusers and who may have concealed or ignored those crimes would stay hidden.

Despite public rhetoric to the contrary, it is hard to see how these moves are designed to do anything but safeguard church secrets and assets and minimize further knowledge of the clergy sex abuse scandal in New Mexico. We hope Catholics, citizens and judges take ever more skeptical views of Catholic bankruptcy claims and we hope that survivors continue to fight for their day in civil court, not bankruptcy court.

CONTACT: Tim Lennon, SNAP President (tlennon@snapnetwork.org, 415-312-5820) Zach Hiner, Executive Director (zhiner@snapnetwork.org, 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org


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