Settlement reached in archdiocese bankruptcy case

Albuquerque Journal [Albuquerque NM]

May 17, 2022

By Colleen Heild

The 41-month-old Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization case filed by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe settled Tuesday afternoon, with an estimated $121 million payout to nearly 400 survivors of clergy sexual abuse.

The settlement includes funds from Archdiocese sales of property and other assets, contributions from individual parishes, and insurance proceeds.

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese, the state’s largest, is one of 29 dioceses and religious orders in the country to have filed for bankruptcy protection to stem losses from legal claims alleging the church failed to prevent sexual abuse of vulnerable youths at the hands of priests and clergy. In New Mexico, some 74 priests have been deemed “credibly accused” of sexually assaulting children while assigned to parishes and schools by the Archdiocese, which covers central and northern New Mexico.

Archbishop John C. Wester in filing the petition in December 2018 said at the time he hoped the monetary settlement would provide “healing” to survivors and provide a “fair and equitable” settlement to survivors.advertisement

In addition to the monetary settlement, a nine-member creditors committee of survivors negotiated a non-monetary agreement with the Archdiocese to create a public archive of documents regarding the history of the sexual abuse claims against the Archdiocese. The negotiated settlement, which does not include settlement of any claims against any religious orders, will be incorporated into a plan of reorganization that survivors will have an opportunity to vote on.

“Through the hard work of the nine members of the Official Creditors Committee, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe has been held accountable to Survivors. The tenacity and courage of New Mexico Survivors empowered us to reach a recommended settlement that addresses the needs of Survivors on a timely basis. The bankruptcy process has been a lengthy one and, at the end of the day, Survivors will receive an unheard of transparency into the history of the Archdiocese’s sexual abuse claims and fair compensation,” said Charles Paez,  chair of the survivors creditors committee.

“The OCC always has stood for fair compensation and transparency..” said James Stang of Pachulski Stang Ziehl & Jones LLP, bankruptcy counsel to the survivors committee. Our goal is to try to have money out to survivors by October.”