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  Bishop's Letter to Church Members

Tucson Citizen
September 20, 2004

http://www.tucsoncitizen.com/index.php?page=
local&story_id=092004_letter_members

Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ Jesus:

I have today directed that a petition for a Chapter 11 reorganization be filed in the Arizona District of the United States Bankruptcy Court, Tucson Division. With the petition, I also have directed that a plan of reorganization for the Diocese of Tucson be filed that will be considered by the creditors and the Bankruptcy Court.

Our Diocese submits the reorganization case and the reorganization plan with the belief that this represents the best opportunity for healing and for the just and fair compensation of those who suffered sexual abuse by workers for the Church in our Diocese -- those who are currently known and those who have not yet made the decision to come forward.

Before I address what I hope this step by the Diocese will accomplish, I want to reflect on some powerful words of St. Paul spoken from his heart to another church in a time of challenge.

"Blessed be the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the father of compassion and God of all encouragement, who encourages us in our every affliction so that we may be able to console those who are in any affliction with the encouragement with which we ourselves are consoled by God."2 Corinthians, 1: 3-4

Be compassionate, be encouraged were St. Paul's words to the Church in Corinth. He sought to remind them to care for those who had been hurt, while staying hopeful, confident of their call to witness Christ.

These words, compassion and encouragement, resonate for us in this moment of our history as a local Church.

We need compassion to reach out to all those who have been harmed. They are our sisters and brothers who truly deserve our compassion, respect, and our love. I have written a letter to all those among us who have been harmed to express my deep sorrow for what they have suffered. I ask you to read that letter and to reflect on how you can help bring about healing for all those who have been hurt.

We need encouragement to continue and, even to augment, the mission that Christ has entrusted to us. That mission is desperately needed in our society, perhaps even more so now than at any other time in our history. Today, God gives us that encouragement, and we in turn console others, especially all who have been harmed by members of our very own household of faith.

We have been struggling to find a way -- the best way -- to respond to those who are seeking compensation for the harm they suffered, a way that also will allow us to continue the mission of the Church in our Diocese.

Your prayers and your participation in the consultations over the last few months have helped me make the decision that the best way is to reorganize the Diocese in the process provided by Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code.

I want you to know that the Diocese did everything that it could do to settle the pending abuse cases in a financially responsible manner. While I said many times that settlement was my hope, interest, preference and desire, as the steward of our Diocese and for the good of our parishes I could not have agreed to a settlement if it would have meant stripping the Diocese of everything and thus limiting our ability to respond to the needs of others who have been hurt who may come forward in the future.

I also want you to know that, notwithstanding our inability to settle the pending abuse cases without filing a Chapter 11, we will continue to try to resolve these cases and any others that come forward. We will try to do this in a consensual manner in the context of the reorganization case, if it is possible to do so.

The Chapter 11 process will establish an orderly way, under the supervision of the Bankruptcy Court, by which those who have been harmed can make a claim and have that claim evaluated for possible compensation. I firmly believe that this reorganization plan is the best way for the Diocese to work constructively with those who have been harmed -- those who have pursued compensation and those who have not.

The Bankruptcy Court describes its mission as providing a neutral forum to all who seek protection or require resolution of disputes. In our present circumstances, we need that neutral forum with its protection and fair adjudication so that we can justly and equitably compensate those who have been harmed while we continue to carry out the mission and ministry of the Church, including our efforts to create safe environments for children at all our parishes and schools.

We fully realize our responsibility to help heal the hurt of victims. We also realize our responsibility to continue the mission that we believe we have received from Jesus Christ: to provide spiritual care, to educate children in the faith, to feed, clothe, and shelter the needy, and to advocate for the least among us. Supported by generations of Catholics through the generosity of their time, talent, and treasure, this has been our mission for more than 100 years. We believe that continuing this mission is essential to our communities and is an expression of our very being as Catholics.

Accompanying the reorganization plan in our filing with the Court today are documents that provide comprehensive information about our Diocese, including very detailed financial information. In the coming weeks, the process of reorganization and seeking confirmation of the reorganization plan will open our Diocese to unprecedented public scrutiny. I believe that is a good thing. We will be open and transparent in this process.

Additionally, we have filed a number of motions that address protecting the privacy of victims of abuse and setting a manner, form, and deadline for persons to communicate their claims of injury.

I will do my best to keep you informed as the process continues. We have set up some special pages on our diocesan Internet site where you can access information. And, I ask you to keep me informed as well. I invite you to e-mail me (bishop@diocesetucson.org) and write to me with your questions, reactions, and feelings. (P.O. Box 31, Tucson, AZ 85702)

The consultations of the last few months have been invaluable in helping me have the confidence that this is the right thing to do. The consultations helped to bring us together, as widely dispersed as we are, in a time of challenge and worry. We have shared our feelings and thoughts, and we have prayed.

Please continue to pray. Please pray for me, for one another, and for all those among us who are hurting.

Be compassionate. Be encouraged.

Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Gerald F. Kicanas, D.D.
Bishop of Tucson


 
 

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