Archdiocese of Albuquerque Hides Assets Before Filing for Bankruptcy
Once again, Catholic officials are manipulating the legal system to hide assets and secrets to the detriment of survivors, parishioners and the public. We hope that the judges presiding over this case can reverse the deceptive moves of church leaders and force transparency on this secretive institution.
The use of bankruptcy court is supposed to aid individuals or organizations that have no money or property that can be converted to money. It is meant to help an institution remain viable in the face of insurmountable debts or claims. The way that Catholic officials from Albuquerque are using bankruptcy court is completely contrary to these principles.
The Archdiocese of Santa Fe is not bankrupt. If these media reports are true, the archdiocese is engaging in a shell game to attempt to fool victims and the courts. Every single parish pays a "fee" to the archbishop's office. Every single priest is an employee of the archdiocese. These paper games where the archdiocese pretends they do not control parish lands, buildings or schools is a charade and we hope the courts see through that charade.
Time and again, Catholic prelates move money in order to protect it when they enter bankruptcy proceedings. For example, in Milwaukee, then-Bishop Timothy Dolan transferred more than $50 million to a cemetery fund in order to keep the assets hidden. Or, when the Archdiocese of St. Paul – Minneapolis went into bankruptcy, Catholic officials there fought to use especially low valuations on Church property. The Diocese of San Diego even left property under the names of its donors in an attempt to keep it away from the bankruptcy court. It took activists and private investigators to find that property and force it to be considered. An Oakland activist undertook a privately funded appraisal of property in that diocese and found a debt-free diocese with nearly $2 billion in assets. Indeed, the year after funding $56 million in settlements, the diocese built a $200 million cathedral without declaring bankruptcy.
This history shows that Catholic officials look to bankruptcy court not out of need, but greed.
By declaring bankruptcy, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe has already derived a huge benefit from the United States legal system by freezing discovery. Freezing discovery prevents the true extent of any possible enabling of perpetrators from becoming public, allowing secrets about clergy sexual abuse and cover-ups to remain hidden. That benefit to the archdiocese is a handicap to protecting children.
No benefits should be afforded an organization that intentionally covered up sex crimes and is now being forced by civil laws to atone for those crimes. We hope that the courts in New Mexico will be able to reverse these shrewd moves by Catholic officials and force them to be honest and transparent.
(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)