Judge in Archdiocese of Santa Fe bankruptcy sets proposed timeline to pay abuse victims – Yahoo News

Posted: October 13, 2022 at 1:30 pm

Oct. 13ALBUQUERQUE A federal bankruptcy court judge has set a potential timeline for survivors of clergy sexual abuse to begin receiving financial compensation in a wide-ranging case involving the Archdiocese of Santa Fe.

Survivors could begin receiving payment between late January and early February, said Tom Walker, an Albuquerque attorney for the archdiocese.

At a Wednesday status conference hearing, Judge David Thuma gave the parties involved in the case, which has been weaving through the courts for years, until the end of October to raise objections to the archdiocese's bankruptcy organization plan to compensate nearly 400 survivors of abuse.

Assuming no objections are raised, Thuma scheduled a Nov. 3 hearing for all parties to approve the archdiocese's plan and its accompanying disclosure statement.

The plan then will be sent to all the survivors for approval a process that will likely take at least

30 days but which still needs to be worked out. A majority of those people need to approve it, said Walker, who was present for the status hearing. If victims approve the plan, it would go back to Thuma for a final OK.

"Everybody is working together and working hard to get it done," Walker said of the case, which started late in 2018 when the archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

The plan calls for the archdiocese to pay out about

$75 million, for six insurers to pay $46.5 million, and for the Servants of the Paraclete and three other religious orders that have been sued for clergy abuse to pay close to $8 million about $130 million in all.

The plan also includes nonmonetary covenants that among other measures allow for public access to an archive of abuse documents at the University of New Mexico's Zimmerman Library to "provide transparency as to how these decades of widespread abuse occurred and to try to prevent any future abuse going forward."

Names of the survivors will be redacted from the collection.

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Another provision in the covenants requires priests and deacons to undergo child protection training and a background check every five years.

Attorney Brad Hall, who represents some of the survivors who filed claims in the archdiocese bankruptcy suit, said after Wednesday's hearing he wished the case had moved more quickly.

"Anytime there are a half dozen insurance companies and 20 lawyers, it takes a little time," he said, adding survivors "can see a light at the end of the tunnel."

Wednesday's status hearing moved quickly, with little discussion and only a few questions posed by lawyers for the various parties a result, perhaps, of Thuma setting deadlines to overcome some of the obstacles that came with negotiations.

One of those barriers came from a conflict between the archdiocese and the insurers over how much they should pay.

Sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy emerged as a nationwide issue more than 30 years ago. In New Mexico, the crisis may have been exacerbated by the presence of a rehabilitation center for priests in Jemez Springs. That center, run by the Servants of the Paraclete, started 75 years ago primarily as a haven for priests struggling with emotional issues and alcoholism. Over time, more and more pedophile priests were sent there. Some were then allowed to serve in New Mexico parishes on weekends or for longer periods.

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe has sold individual pieces of property and sought a mortgage on the Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi to help raise money for the settlements. Other small, vacant properties were bundled and sold at two auctions. Walker told Thuma during the hearing the archdiocese is still finalizing some of the exhibits that go with the final plan a task that should be completed by Monday at the latest, he said.

Thuma thanked the parties involved for finding a way to what seems to be a conclusion to the case. He told them they performed "lots and lots of hard work, and you all are to be commended."

As a result, he said, the process is "moving much more quickly now."

Although Wednesday's hearing ended on a note of optimism, the disclosure statement for the bankruptcy plan says if the plan is not confirmed in a timely manner, "it is not clear that the transactions contemplated in the plan could be implemented and what holders of Tort Claims would ultimately receive ... moreover, failure to confirm the plan may result in dismissal of the case in its entirety."

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Judge in Archdiocese of Santa Fe bankruptcy sets proposed timeline to pay abuse victims - Yahoo News

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