Diocese of Camden Alleged to Have Underreported Assets
In a disturbing but not surprising allegation, a New Jersey diocese has been accused of “massively underreporting” its assets in order to protect them from lawsuits brought by men and women who were sexually abused as children. Once again, Catholic officials have demonstrated that they care more about protecting their money than they do providing justice for survivors and preventing future cases of abuse.
The Diocese of Camden, NJ, allegedly undercounted their assets in an effort to shield them from clergy abuse lawsuits. We are not surprised because, time and time again, Church officials have been exposed for misusing bankruptcy court and hiding assets. A key part of the Catholic Church's playbook is to declare bankruptcy in order to avoid the disclosure of sex abuse secrets. The tactic is also used to hide money, as is apparently being done in Camden.
For example, in 2002 survivors in Oakland and San Diego independently discovered that the bishops in those two dioceses understated the value of their assets. In San Diego's case, the diocese declared bankruptcy and tried to hide real estate assets by leaving them in the names of donors. In Oakland, an audit discovered that the diocese owned $2 Billion in real estate, of which $500 million was not related to schools, churches or other Oakland Catholic ministries. Among the assets was a partnership in a golf course development, apartments buildings, and a retail shopping center. A more recent example comes from Santa Fe, New Mexico. That diocese, in the midst of its bankruptcy, is selling property it was forced to disclose and bidding wars are breaking out. To us, this is more evidence that the Church is actually flush, not broke, and that victims are being shortchanged by these false claims of poverty.
We hope the bankruptcy court in New Jersey takes an objective approach by requiring a full disclosure of all assets and then insisting on a proper fair market appraisal of all those assets. In the end, the only way to really know what something is worth is to offer the asset to a buyer and discover what they will pay. When all of that is done, the Camden bishop and the other prelates in bankruptcy can sit down with victims and creditors and hammer out fair restitution for the harm done to these brave men and women. Absent a full disclosure, Catholic officials in New Jersey will simply continue to play shell games with victims, parishioners, and the public.
CONTACT: Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager (267-261-0578, [email protected]), Mark Crawford, SNAP New Jersey (732-632-7687, mecrawf[email protected]), Dan McNevin, SNAP Treasurer (415-341-6417, [email protected]), Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 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)