Archbishop John C. Wester delivers his homily during his October 20 visit to Immaculate Heart of Mary Parish in Los Alamos. Photo by Maire O’Neill/losalamosreporter.com
BY MAIRE O’NEILL
Archbishop John C. Wester announced Thursday afternoon that the Archdiocese of Santa Fe will file for Chapter 11 reorganization within the first full week of December.
In a statement released following a meeting with all Diocesan priests and priests with appointments within the Diocese Diocesan priests held at the St. meeting at the St. Pius X High School Fine Arts auditorium, Archbishop Wester said for the past 25 years, the Archdiocese has worked diligently to promote a safe environment for children and young people.
“In particular, during this time we have done our best to provide support and healing for those who have been harmed by clergy sexual abuse. We realize that nothing can ever adequately compensate those who have been victims of this terrible crime. Nonetheless, we seek to do all we can by way of publicly acknowledging their pain, offering apologies and providing financial compensation. We are committed to doing all we can to assist victim survivors now, and into the future,” he said.
Archbishop Wester said this commitment is not simply to those who have already come forward seeking justice, but to all those who will come forward in the future.
“Cognizant of our diminished resources, I have sought the advice of representatives of the College of Consultors, the Presbyteral Council, the Archdiocesan Finance Council and many others who have experience and expertise in these matters. Over a period of many months, these trusted colleagues have strongly recommended the archdiocese seek to reorganize under Chapter 11 of the Bankruptcy Code. Therefore, relying on the providence of our loving God and having informed the appropriate archdiocesan bodies, I now announce, having accepted this clear recommendation, we have instructed our attorneys to file for Chapter 11 reorganization within the first full week of December 2018,” he said.
“I wish to make clear that our first and foremost concern is the victims of sexual abuse and our desire to do all we can to provide for their just compensation. Reorganization helps us to provide in an equitable manner, especially for those who could come forward in the future as well as those who have already taken the courageous step of making a claim. I wish to emphasize that we have not taken this step to avoid responsibility. On the contrary, we believe that Chapter 11 is the most equitable way for the Archdiocese to address its responsibility to the victim-survivors. Specifically, the operations of the parishes, schools and other critical missions of the Archdiocese will go forward and will continue with their normal operations,” he said.
Archbishop Wester said the Chapter 11 reorganization will also provide full financial transparency with regard to the operations and properties of the Archdiocese. He said the Archdiocese will continue to cooperate with the New Mexico Attorney General with regard to the current ongoing inquiry.
“The Chapter 11 reorganization process also specifically provides that the victims and their counsel will be full and active participants in the reorganization. Concluding the Chapter 11 reorganization will require the affirmative consent of the survivors who file claims,” he said.
Archbishop Wester noted that a significant part of the daily operations of the Archdiocese is its ongoing effort to heal and protect.
“Over the last 25 years, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe has had a ‘Zero Tolerance Policy’ whereby every priest, deacon, staff member or volunteer who is credibly accused of sexual abuse of a minor is removed from ministry permanently, and the abuse is reported to law enforcement. Since 1993, the Archdiocese has had a full-time Victims’ Assistance Coordinator, an Independent Review Board, and every priest, deacon, staff member or volunteer is required to go through a background check and attend the Archdiocesan Abuse Awareness Training for Adults,” the statement reads.
In addition, the policy of the Archdiocese is to pay for counseling for any sexual abuse victim who requests it, and the Archbishop has offered to meet with every victim of sexual abuse by a priest, deacon, staff member or volunteer. In September 2017, the Archdiocese published a list of credibly accused priests, deacons, religious, and seminarians, and recently updated the list to add additional names and provide the assignment history of each priest.