ALBUQUERQUE – In New Mexico, one of the oldest Roman Catholic dioceses in the U.S. has filed its bankruptcy reorganization plan to compensate nearly 400 clergy abuse survivors with more than $121 million.
A federal bankruptcy judge in the District of New Mexico will hear the Archdiocese of Santa Fe's plan in a hearing Wednesday, the Albuquerque Journal reported.
The long-anticipated agreement comes nearly four years after the Archdiocese of Santa Fe filed for bankruptcy reorganization to resolve mounting abuse claims that dated back decades.
Under the plan, six insurers will cover $46.5 million of the $121.5 million, according to the court filing, which the newspaper obtained. That leaves the archdiocese responsible for $75 million. The archdiocese has over $69 million in an escrow account, as well as a $5.4 million promissory note that must be paid off by March 31.
The Servants of the Paraclete, which ran a treatment center for Catholic priests with conditions including pedophilia for decades, and three religious orders will contribute $7.85 million.
“It is impossible to overstate the tragedy of the Abuse that was inflicted on the children and teenagers of the Archdiocese,” the archdiocese wrote in the disclosure statement with the reorganization plan. “The Abuse was perpetrated by priests or others purporting to do the missionary work of the Roman Catholic Church. Instead of fulfilling their missions, those perpetrators inflicted harm and suffering.”
At least two-thirds of the church abuse survivors who filed claims must approve the plan.
Brad Hall, an Albuquerque attorney, has represented more than 235 church abuse survivors in recent years. He says 145 of them filed claims in the bankruptcy case. Having a plan filed now will hopefully lead to survivors receiving allocations before the end of the year, Hall told the newspaper.
The filing “finally represents the possibility of some closure for long suffering people who were badly hurt as children. I see light at the end of the tunnel,” he said.
Survivors allege those in power in New Mexico's Catholic Church looked the other way or concealed abuse. They also accused the archdiocese of simply moving abusive priests to new parishes rather than investigate them.
The settlement agreement also calls for the archdiocese to make documents about the abuse scandal publicly available. They will be given to the University of New Mexico Zimmerman Library. Victims' names and other identifying information would be redacted.
Meanwhile, there are numerous other claims or lawsuits in state court – including 80 against the Servants of the Paraclete. Their treatment center was created more than 50 years ago for priests from all over the country. Their facility in Jemez Springs is closed, but they are accused of perpetuating abuse by collaborating with the archdiocese to send supposedly rehabilitated priests to other Catholic churches.
Current Archbishop of Santa Fe John C. Wester is leading an archdiocese that has now promised a zero-tolerance policy for abuse or hiding it. The archdiocese website has a list of roughly 80 credibly accused priests and clergy. It lists 29 of them as still alive. There is also a list of priests who have been credibly accused elsewhere but at one time worked in New Mexico.