Victims Express Frustration at Pace of Archdiocese of Santa Fe Bankruptcy Case | Local News
Letters sent to a federal bankruptcy judge for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe reflect impatience at the slowness of the case, which has dragged on for nearly three years.
At least 16 letters have been addressed to US bankruptcy judge David Thuma since the Archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2018. Most of them have been sent by the same two or three people, who have them. signed “Jane Doe” or “John Doe” or not signed at all. Nonetheless, the letters to Thuma seem to give voice to the victims or the victims’ relatives as the case drags on.
One of them urges Thuma to “deal with the bankruptcy case as soon as possible, so that all the victims can finally conclude and move on with their lives”. This letter was written in November 2019.
Around 385 victims, most of whom suffered child sexual abuse at the hands of priests, deacons and other members of the Catholic hierarchy, are represented by numerous lawyers. Nine of the applicants form a committee which also speaks on behalf of the victims.
Another letter to Thuma, written three months ago in a long scribble, says, “Nothing’s happening! The victims are frustrated by the stalled case. Help me please !!!!”
Reverend Glennon Jones, Vicar General of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, wrote on the institution’s website in late September that he is raising money to pay the victims.
But Jones added: “Right now we are negotiating with the insurance companies that have covered the Archdiocese for those years named in the (many) claims; unfortunately it may take a while, but there is no way to speed it up. Sigh.”
The case went to its second mediator. Documents filed with Thuma and comments from lawyers this summer and fall indicate that several insurance companies in the Archdiocese are lacking in enthusiasm for large payments.
The Archdiocese raises funds through donations and property sales. An auction in August generated around $ 1.6 million, and a second auction of “non-essential” properties, such as vacant land donated by families, is expected to take place next month.
Ford Elsaesser, an Idaho-based bankruptcy attorney representing the archdiocese, said Thursday that “efforts to resolve this issue as quickly as possible are continuing.” He said the ongoing work with the insurance companies is confidential but essential to the case.
“And certainly the frustration of the survivors is understandable,” Elsaesser said. He said he has represented around 10 parishes, dioceses and archdioceses in bankruptcy cases.
Across the country, at least 29 Catholic dioceses and orders, including the Diocese of Gallup, have filed for bankruptcy in the sex abuse scandal. BishopAccountability.org recently reported that the Church has paid more than $ 3.2 billion in cases dating back many years. The nonprofit group behind the site said it had not been able to collect information on all of the settlements.
It is not uncommon for such cases to recur. For example, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy case lasted more than four years before being settled for $ 21 million for 330 victims, the Reuters news service reported.
In the Santa Fe case, victims’ lawyers accused the Archdiocese of attempting to withdraw money from its parishes and trust funds so that the money was inaccessible to victims. This complaint is pending.
“We continue to work in cooperation with the survivors committee,” Elsaesser said. “There haven’t been any contentious court hearings recently.”
It is not known how much money and insurance the Archdiocese is trying to collect. The participants in the case refused to disclose this. Thuma wrote in February that more than $ 150 million could be involved, and that was only a portion of the assets that victims could potentially receive.
In another letter to Thuma, a person who last year only signed with a drawing of a sad face said she was a victim who wanted to thank the judge “for having met all the lawyers. … Without the meetings, nothing would happen to end the bankruptcy.
Another woman wrote to Thuma in February to tell him she did not want to be part of the case. While she “was involved in an incident … I received numerous letters from lawyers regarding lawsuits against the Archdiocese,” she wrote.
The woman has called herself a “proud member” of a Catholic church in New Mexico for more than 70 years. She said she had no desire to participate in a lawsuit against the church.