Catholic Attorney Claims Sex Abuse Victims Are Trying to “Eliminate the Archdiocese” by Seeking Justice for Sexual Abuse and Cover-ups
In the latest display of arrogance and ignorance, an attorney representing the Catholic Church claims that the men and women who are suing the Archdiocese of Santa Fe for sexual abuse and cover-ups are trying to “eliminate the Archdiocese.” It is beyond offensive that an institution that allowed children to be preyed upon is trying to play the victim. We believe that Archdiocesan officials must forcefully disavow these insensitive comments from their lawyer.
The simple fact is that the Catholic Church is a powerful institution that has victimized the faithful for generations and is now trying to avoid responsibility and accountability for this criminal history. Despite declaring bankruptcy, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe is no doubt far wealthier then it lets on: the institution owns rental property, an investment portfolio and hundreds of other non-mission critical pieces of property. Just as there is a "playbook" for hiding, shuffling, and enabling abusive priests, there also is an apparent bankruptcy "playbook" for hiding assets and misleading judges, advocates, and survivors. Catholic officials in Santa Fe were accused earlier this year of trying to hide millions of dollars in assets, something that dioceses around the country have done in order to protect their treasure at the expense of survivors, parishioners, and parents.
As one stark example, when California first opened a “window to justice” in 2002, an advocate for victims discovered the Diocese of Oakland owned over a billion dollars of free and clear real estate. Later, the diocese settled its claims with dozens of victims who were able to prove that Catholic officials hid and enabled abuse with cash and were still able to build a $200 million cathedral within three years of that settlement.
There are almost 80 abusers associated with the current litigation in Santa Fe and nearly 400 victims, and each of those victims deserves an opportunity for healing. These men and women, as children, had zero control over what happened to them at the hands of the clergy and nuns who molested and raped them. More often than not, those perpetrators were known to Catholic leaders and they were enabled to abuse more boys and girls by the Archdiocese. Now that Santa Fe is finally facing the music for their actions, it cannot attempt to play dumb or poor. It is neither.
Rather than continue to lie to parishioners and the public about their finances, Catholic officials should instead try honesty on for size. They should open their books – including cash, stocks, bonds, and real estate – and be honest with the bankruptcy court about their assets. The creditors' committee can review what is mission-critical and what is not. If the Archdiocese can take up a bishop’s or pope's appeal, it can also take up a victim's appeal to support the men and women who, as devout Catholic children, were harmed.
We urge Archbishop John Wester to forcefully speak out against his attorney’s ignorant and offensive remark. The men and women who are suing the Archdiocese are doing so to prevent future cases of abuse and to ensure that there is a small measure of justice for the abuse they suffered. If anyone is working to “eliminate the Archdiocese,” it is those who lie to protect their reputations and pocketbooks.
(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)