News

Religion

Catholic Church Moves Funds Around to Shield $2 Billion in Assets from Abuse Victim Settlements

Clergy members attend the Holy Mass held by Pope Francis at the National Stadium in Bangkok, Thailand, November 21, 2019. (Jorge Silva/Reuters)

The Catholic Church in the U.S. has moved around more than $2 billion in assets in order to prevent the funds from going to alleged abuse victims who sued the Church.

As more victims of sexual abuse by priests sued various dioceses around the country, churches began transferring and reclassifying assets, and filing for bankruptcy, according to a Bloomberg Businessweek review of court filings by lawyers representing churches and victims over the last 15 years.

Filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy has allowed the dioceses to reach universal settle­ments and protected them from further victim claims. Dioceses have chosen the bankruptcy option more than 20 times since 2004.

A spokeswoman for the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops stated that the “decision on whether to seek Chapter 11 protection in a given case is the diocese’s alone.”

However, in some cases the Vatican has signed off on an archdiocese’s financial reorganization before that archdiocese filed for bankruptcy.

In 2015, St. Paul and Minneapolis filed Chapter 11 bankruptcy, claiming only $50 million in assets, while lawyers for victims estimated the archdiocese’s worth at about $1.7 billion. The Twin Cities archdiocese subsequently reached the largest bankruptcy settlement by an archdiocese.

In New Mexico, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, which has had dozens of abuse lawsuits filed against it, has taken a particularly aggressive tack to shielding its assets from victim claims, distancing itself since 2012 from about $178 million to protect the funds from the settlements.

The state attorney general opened an investigation in 2018 into the Sante Fe Archdiocese and executed a search warrant to obtain records on at least two former priests accused of abusing children. The archdiocese said it “worked cooperatively” with the state.

“The bankruptcy code should not be used to revictimize victims,” said New Mexico attorney general Hector Balderas. “They are really just trying to shield assets.”

The New Mexico bankruptcy court last year set a June 17 deadline for filing sex abuse claims against the archdiocese, riling the lawyers of victims, who argue the move leaves behind victims who were still too ashamed to come forward by the deadline. The victims’ lawyers began mediation in September with the archdiocese.

“We realize that nothing can ever adequately compensate those who have been victims of this terrible crime,” Santa Fe Archbishop John C. Wester said in November, 2018. “Nonetheless, we seek to do all we can by way of publicly acknowledging their pain, offering apologies and providing financial compensation.”

Send a tip to the news team at NR.

Most Popular

Why Trump’s Losing

President Trump pulled an inside straight to win in 2016, and now he needs another one. The good news for Trump is that his approval rating has stopped falling recently. The bad news is that it has stabilized in the low 40s. Election-watcher Harry Enten points out that no president since Harry Truman has won ... Read More

Why Trump’s Losing

President Trump pulled an inside straight to win in 2016, and now he needs another one. The good news for Trump is that his approval rating has stopped falling recently. The bad news is that it has stabilized in the low 40s. Election-watcher Harry Enten points out that no president since Harry Truman has won ... Read More
Elections

The Man Who Wasn’t There

At first glance, Joe Biden’s strategy of avoiding the spotlight is paying off. He maintains his consistent lead over Donald Trump in national polls. In June, in the aftermath of the Lafayette Park fiasco, his advantage in the RealClearPolitics average expanded to ten points. The critical swing states of ... Read More
Elections

The Man Who Wasn’t There

At first glance, Joe Biden’s strategy of avoiding the spotlight is paying off. He maintains his consistent lead over Donald Trump in national polls. In June, in the aftermath of the Lafayette Park fiasco, his advantage in the RealClearPolitics average expanded to ten points. The critical swing states of ... Read More
Economy & Business

What’s an ‘American’ Car?

I’m not too sure about Dmitri’s ode to American cars, because I am not too sure what is an American car. In what sense should a Jeep Compass manufactured in Mexico be thought of as American while a Mercedes GLE made in Alabama isn’t? The answer cannot be corporate ownership: Both companies have ... Read More
Economy & Business

What’s an ‘American’ Car?

I’m not too sure about Dmitri’s ode to American cars, because I am not too sure what is an American car. In what sense should a Jeep Compass manufactured in Mexico be thought of as American while a Mercedes GLE made in Alabama isn’t? The answer cannot be corporate ownership: Both companies have ... Read More