The Archdiocese of Santa Fe in New Mexico has announced to file for chapter 11 bankruptcy, a day after the city’s attorney general executed a search warrant at the archdiocesan chancery in Albuquerque.
The Archdiocese is facing dozens of ongoing lawsuits in New Mexico stemming from a sexual abuse committed by priests that stretches for decades, sources said.
At the press conference on November 29, Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester said that “filing for bankruptcy is an equitable way to meet its responsibility to sexual abuse victims.”
“The archdiocese had already paid millions of dollars to settle claims of child sex abuse committed over the years. The terms of most of those deals are confidential,’ said Archbishop Wester.
“Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows an entity to keep functioning as it undergoes reorganization while paying its creditors over time,” the Archbishop said.
Wester said there are around 35-40 active claims against the archdiocese, which is comprised of 300,000 Catholics in northwestern New Mexico.
“We could see where this was all leading and the trajectory wasn’t changing. We just don’t have the money. If we’re not here, we can’t help anybody,” Wester said.
“It’s not a wealthy archdiocese. The churches, the parishes, the schools are going forward in their own way. The cases we’ve mediated and compensated have come from our reserves.” Wester insisted that his “first and foremost concern” was abuse victims, and making sure they received “just compensation.” The archdiocese said in a statement that the Chapter 11 reorganization would allow for “full financial transparency” about its operations and properties.
Several American dioceses and archdioceses have filed for bankruptcy protection in recent years as they confront their own claims of clergy sex abuse, said the sources.
The Catholic Church is battling an ongoing abuse scandal in numerous countries around the world, with new victims coming forward and church leaders accused of being slow in delivering an adequate response.
(With inputs from agencies)