Davenport Bishop Talks about Bankruptcy Filing

Associated Press, carried in Des Moines Register [Davenport IA]
December 26, 2006

The new bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Davenport says bankruptcy is a turning point as the diocese works to move past the church abuse scandal.

Bishop Martin Amos, 65, was installed on Nov. 20 to lead the diocese, which includes 106,000 Catholics in 84 parishes in 22 counties. He came to Iowa from the Diocese of Cleveland, where he served as auxiliary bishop. Amos succeeded Bishop William Franklin, who led the diocese since 1994 before retiring.

During his tenure, Franklin guided the church through the financial crisis which resulted from the sex abuse scandal and forced the diocese to become only the fourth in the country to file for bankruptcy.

Under that plan, the diocese must trim its $3.64 million budget by $270,000. The diocese has until Feb. 10 to submit a reorganization plan to a bankruptcy judge.

The diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in October, two days before it was to defend itself in a sexual abuse lawsuit and two years after Franklin settled 37 separate claims for $9 million. The pending lawsuits were delayed by the bankruptcy.

"Bishop Franklin did a wonderful job of leading the diocese during a time where tough decisions had to be made," Amos said recently while touring Notre Dame Catholic School in Burlington. "I will be looking to him, and others, for advice as we continue to deal with these difficult choices."

Those tough decision include the sale of three diocese properties, including the two-story brick bishop's residence. The St. Vincent Center diocesan headquarters also will be sold later.

Amos said the decision to file bankruptcy was difficult for diocese officials, but was necessary to secure the future of the diocese.

"We want to do everything we can to reach out to those who have been hurt by sexual abuse and make sure it never happens again," he said. "This will help us to fairly compensate victims, while maintaining the diocese."

Amos said that despite the turbulent past and the upcoming challenges, he sees the bankruptcy as a turning point for the diocese.

He said in his visits to its parishes, he sees a vibrant and optimistic diocese and believes it will weather the current crisis.

"I am still getting my feet wet, but I get a sense of optimism when I visit parishes," he said. "The more people I talk to the better sense I get that there is a real positive spirit here. You can walk into any parish in the diocese and see God's love in every pew."


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