Catholics condemn Archdiocese of Baltimore for bankruptcy response to sexual abuse lawsuits

Baltimore Sun [Baltimore MD]

September 10, 2023

By Frank Schindler, Tim Eastman, Edward McCarey McDonnell, and Henry A. Cherry

In matters of sexual abuse, Catholic Church is ‘morally and spiritually bankrupt’

It is with disgust, but not surprise, that I read about the Baltimore archdiocese’s plan to consider bankruptcy as a response to their history of child sexual abuse (“Archbishop concedes the Baltimore archdiocese is considering bankruptcy; survivors say they’d oppose the move,” Sept. 5). I would like to particularly respond to two points in Archbishop William Lori’s email to Baltimore archdiocese Catholics.

He states that “victim-survivors … suffered so profoundly from the actions of some ministers of the Church.” This is another blatant refusal to accept the institutional responsibility borne by the Archdiocese of Baltimore and many, many other dioceses. The Baltimore Attorney General’s Office report directly stated that their investigation uncovered “the enormous scope and scale of abuse and concealment perpetrated by the Archdiocese of Baltimore.”

Such findings have been replicated by multiple attorneys general reports throughout the United States and similar investigations in other countries. To even imply that the abuse was only the action of “some ministers of the Church” is to again deny that the sexual abuse of children and the concealment of that abuse has been a systematic policy of the Catholic Church for decades.

The Church continues to place money over morality, possessions over people and preserving their power over the protection of children. As a specific instance of this, Lori, in his letter, essentially “coaches” Catholics how they can assist in the Church policy of sheltering assets from bankruptcy proceedings while continuing to provide money to the diocese during what has been referred to in other emails as “offertory season.” This is a direct attempt, as is bankruptcy filing in general, to subvert the purpose of the Child Victims Act of 2023. In a way it is only too fitting that dioceses of the Catholic Church declare their bankruptcy. The Church proved long ago that it is morally and spiritually totally bankrupt, as officials continue to deny institutional responsibility for heinous actions. Perhaps it is time for the whole corrupt edifice to collapse under the weight of its collective greed, guilt and shame.

— Frank Schindler, Baltimore

Church must not use bankruptcy to evade accountability

The increasing use of bankruptcy to evade accountability has turned the bankruptcy system on its head (“Archdiocese of Baltimore weighs bankruptcy with surge of child sex abuse lawsuits expected,” Sept. 1). We recently learned that Archbishop Lori has had discussions about this subject, and other archdioceses around the country also have tried to use bankruptcy to evade accountability for the criminal behavior of clergy in both committing and hiding sexual abuse. Judges in other jurisdictions have seen through this attempted abuse of the bankruptcy system and denied relief. I hope that Maryland judges see through this and similarly deny bankruptcy relief to the Baltimore archdiocese.

While it may be unfortunate that the archdiocese will suffer ruinous losses because it turned a blind eye and actually enabled these abuses, it would be an even greater tragedy if those victims were not compensated by the same people they trusted. In many ways, this violation of a sacred trust makes these abuses worse. The victims have had their lives destroyed and have shown amazing courage in trying to lead full lives and also confronting their abusers, despite the trauma being revisited.

— Tim Eastman, Baltimore

Church needs a plan of action other than bankruptcy

It’s interesting to read about the continued scheming of Archdiocese of Baltimore officials. It never ends, and it never works. We have no idea of the value of the assets of the archdiocese. I assume the greatest assets consist of the monumental real estate portfolio and various works of art. How can the archdiocese claim to be bankrupt when they have failed to sell underutilized properties?

Archbishop William Lori has been a part-time archbishop, spending considerable time working as the Supreme Chaplain of the Knights of Columbus. And he has been a behind-the-scenes mover and shaker in the American hierarchy, so he is guided by his own personal ambition.

Currently, the pastor of the Cathedral of Mary Our Queen must also take care of the parishioners of St. Thomas Aquinas in Hampden. Priests are being overworked, and parishioners are spending too much to maintain churches that are frequently close to one another. Much of the tax exempt property needs to be sold.

When I think of the contributions of family and friends, I am amazed by the failure of stewardship in this archdiocese. I am disgusted by the cavalier attitude of archdiocesan officials. The archbishop needs to provide Catholics a plan of action that does not rely simply on the very questionable claim of bankruptcy. What is the plan for moving forward? My plan would exclude several archdiocesan officials. We need a new start, and we will need to win back lost credibility.

— Edward McCarey McDonnell, Baltimore

Archdiocese again fails parishioners they have sinned against

The absurdity of Catholic Archdioceses across the U.S. claiming bankruptcy in order not to pay out the lawsuits they will likely lose is a perfect mirror of what the church has become. As a kid, I was a parishioner at Shrine of the Sacred Heart in Mt. Washington. The Catholic Church has long argued for special status in a number of ways, including freedom from taxation. Under this special status they’ve amassed large swaths of property across Baltimore. Now, because Catholic priests habitually sexually abused young parishioners, the Church is using a legal loophole to protect themselves from paying parishioners for abuse the Church themselves committed.

Wouldn’t it serve the community better if victims became owner/operators of Baltimore’s finest Cathedrals? It certainly wouldn’t be as absurd as the Church seeking protection from oncoming legal responsibilities. One of the tenets of Catholicism is to seek salvation by eschewing sinful behavior. How typical that the Archdiocese of Baltimore is not interested in helping the parishioners they have sinned against.

— Henry A. Cherry, Baltimore