SNAP Responds to Bloomberg Report on How Church Officials Abuse Bankruptcy Courts to Keep Clergy Abuse Hidden

A new report by Bloomberg Businessweek has put into plain view the way that Catholic officials abuse bankruptcy court in order to hold tightly to both their secrets and their money, at the expense of survivors and the protection of children. We hope this report will demonstrate to parishioners how their money is being used and will cause more people to examine how they donate to and support their church.

Bloomberg rightly points out what survivors and advocates have been saying for years: that Catholic officials have used the bankruptcy process to deny victims just compensation, prevent information about abuse and cover-ups from getting into the public, and how this puts more children at risk.

It is easy to get caught up in the money aspect of these cases, but what this is ultimately about is safety and awareness. The way that church officials abuse bankruptcy courts is frustrating to us not because of the monetary implications, but because it demonstrates how prelates value secrecy over the protection of children and the concerns of the public. These loopholes allow church officials to keep important information under wraps and that is the biggest travesty with these cases.

We believe that the only way to prevent bankruptcy courts from being abused in this way is for government stakeholders to use the power of their offices to intervene where possible. This means more attorneys general opening investigations and using search warrants and subpoena power to compel testimony under oath, preventing Catholic officials from hiding secrets through bankruptcy proceedings. It means governors using their office to draw attention to these situations and it means state legislatures taking action to close loopholes that allow church leaders to transfer ownership of property and assets just before filing for bankruptcy, a strategy that is obviously and openly employed to lower their net worth and deny survivors just compensation.

We know that the cost of abuse is extreme. In 2015, researchers at Johns Hopkins university estimated that the annual costs associated with the aftermath of abuse exceeded $9 billion. It is disturbing that institutions that enable and cover-up abuse are also employing legal strategies to get out of paying their fair share for the harm inflicted on survivors and the economy. We hope that this article will be read by every politician in every state and that those officials will take steps immediately to close these loopholes and force Catholic officials to reckon with the cost of their crimes directly and for church officials to be forced to give up the secrets that they so desperately want to shield.

 CONTACT: Zach Hiner, SNAP 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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