NEW ORLEANS (LA)
Archdiocese of New Orleans LA
September 8, 2023
By Archbishop Gregory Aymond
To the Clergy, Religious, and Laity of the Archdiocese of New Orleans:
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ,
As many of you are already aware, the Archdiocese of New Orleans filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the US Bankruptcy Code on May 1, 2020. This has been a much longer, complicated, and costly process than anyone could have predicted. However, I remain steadfast in my conviction that these Chapter 11 proceedings are the best path forward to justly address all past claims of abuse. We will use this process to restructure our financials and streamline our organizational structure to be a local church of vitality and responsive to the needs of the faithful now and into the future.
At the time of the filing, there were over 30 claims of abuse filed in court against the Archdiocese of New Orleans, many of which were lawsuits, too costly to defend. As it stands today, there are over 500 proofs of claim filed with the bankruptcy court. This is the number of claims, not persons accused, and involve allegations of abuse by priests, deacons, religious men and women, lay employees, volunteers, and unknown or unidentified individuals dating back decades.
We have entered into a mediation process with our insurers and the official Committee of Unsecured Creditors. I believe these meetings have been fruitful, and we are beginning to see progress towards bringing these proceedings to a resolution. I ask you to join me in prayer for all of those involved, particularly the survivors of abuse, and for this positive momentum to continue.
When we filed for Chapter 11 Reorganization in 2020, I was advised by legal counsel that the Chapter 11 proceedings would only impact our administrative offices and not the apostolates – parishes, schools, and ministries – of the Archdiocese of New Orleans. Unfortunately, this is no longer the case because of many external factors now facing us including the fact that the law governing the statute of limitations has changed to now permit the filing of past abuse claims in civil court.
Our apostolates will need to seek a channeling injunction to wholly address their potential liabilities for claims and lawsuits of past abuse. Simply put, a channeling injunction prevents someone who receives a settlement in bankruptcy from suing one of the apostolates for the same incident and protects them from being sued after the bankruptcy is settled. The channeling injunction will help preserve the assets of parishes, schools, and ministries against past claims of abuse. In order to accomplish that, we now know that there must be a contribution from the apostolates. We do not yet know what that total contribution will be or what will be asked of each entity. I felt it important to share this information with you as it represents a significant change in our original understanding of the Chapter 11 proceedings and will, in some cases, affect future planning.
As we work with our apostolates to analyze our footprint, we will work to reduce the number of properties owned by the Archdiocese of New Orleans and our apostolates. Soaring insurance rates and costly maintenance have impacted our ability to maintain appropriately the over 1400 pieces of property and remain good stewards of our resources. This work will be a very important factor to determining contributions asked of the apostolates as well.
I remain committed to the majority of the settlement being paid with the assets of the Archdiocese of New Orleans and our insurers. We are working through a court approved process to sell real estate to fund the settlement and streamline our real estate holdings. Through these efforts and by the grace of God, we will emerge better prepared for the future and be an even stronger Catholic family.
In closing, please know that I pray for you, the faithful of our Archdiocese of New Orleans, every day. Again, I ask for your prayers for our clergy, religious, lay staff and those who are working to support us during this challenging time. I humbly ask too for prayers for me as we together ask the Holy Spirit to guide this process to a just conclusion.
God is faithful and will lead us in this challenging time.
Wishing you God’s blessings and with gratitude for your support, I am,
Sincerely in Christ,
Most Reverend Gregory M. Aymond
Archbishop of New Orleans