MN--Catholic diocese declares bankruptcy
For immediate release: Friday, Jan. 16, 2015
Statement by Barbara Dorris of St. Louis, Outreach Director of SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (314 503 0003 cell, SNAPdorris@gmail.com)
Archbishop John Nienstedt is exploiting secular bankruptcy laws to protect himself and his top aides from embarrassment and inconvenience. This decision is not about money, it's about selfishness.
It's no coincidence that Nienstedt does this on the eve of three trials at which dreadfully damaging testimony by a range of victims, witnesses and whistleblowers would have been laid bare for the public to see. That's almost always the way Catholic church bankruptcy filings happen.
Nienstedt will say it's about helping to make sure everyone gets paid. But it's really about making sure he and his colleagues get off the hook, avoiding having to answer tough questions in open court about how they are concealing and have concealed heinous crimes against kids.
And if there's one Catholic official who wants to avoid this, it's Nienstedt. What's known now about dozens of Twin Cities predator priests is awful. But if even one of these cases would go to trial, even more shocking facts would come to light. And Niensted will do almost anything he possibly can to prevent this from happening.
Chapter 11 enables a bishop to protect what he cares about most: his own reputation, comfort and secrets. It stops depositions, discovery and clergy sex abuse and cover up trials. It's a smart but selfish legal maneuver that will effectively prevent Catholics from getting key information and victims from getting real justice.
Chapter 11 also enables Catholic officials to change the subject from “Which priests and bishops put kids in harms' way” to “How are we going to divide up church funds?” The names and reckless, callous and deceitful actions of those who intimidated victims, stonewalled police, threatened whistleblowers, discredited witnesses, and deceived parishioners will not be revealed.
Church officials claim they are broke. But if they'll deceive police, prosecutors, parents, parishioners and the public about predator priests, they'll also deceive people about their wealth.
As best we can tell, Twin Cities Catholic officials have done virtually nothing to expand the pool of funds that could be used to compensate victims while clearly doing all they can to deceitfully reduce that pool.
(More than decade ago, America’s most disgraced Catholic prelate, Boston's Cardinal Bernard Law, borrowed $25 million to help compensate victims. Other bishops have sold property that isn't needed or isn't being used - most of which was given to the diocese by parishioners who have passed away. But we've seen no evidence that Nienstedt has even tried to borrow or raise more funds for this purpose.)
If Nienstedt were a father of a high school senior, he'd borrow money, get a second job and move heaven and earth to send that kid to college. (We all know that 'where there's a will, there's a way,' especially in the world's largest, richest, oldest and only global monarchy.) But with adults who were sexually assaulted as kids by clerics, he rubs even more salt into already devastating and still infected wounds by pretending to be poor.
When it's to their advantage (hiring lobbyists and public relations firms and funding papal visits), bishops pool their resources, talking about “the universal church.” When it's to their advantage – like clergy sex cases – they pretend it's “every man for himself,” claiming “we're a small, independent diocese with limited resources.”
It's been 12 years since thousands of clergy sex abuse victims began stepping forward following the Boston Globe's investigation. More and more dioceses have sought bankruptcy protection. It's a smart way to continue protecting those who commit and conceal horrific crimes against kids by preventing depositions, discovery and trials. We fear more bishops will now be tempted to exploit this maneuver so they can preserve their reputations and careers.
Finally, we are sad for brave Twin Cities victims who has done so much and fought so hard to expose the corruption in their archdiocese. At least three of them wanted and deserved their day in court. Nienstedt, however, in yet another act of betrayal by a bishop against a victim, took that away from them.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 25 years and have more than 20,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)