Diocese of Buffalo, New York. Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Diocese of Harrisburg, Pennsylvania. Archdiocese of Agana, Guam. These and more than 20 other diocese and religious orders nationwide have filed for bankruptcy protection to handle the increasing costs associated with the child sexual abuse crisis. On Friday, May 1, 2020, another Catholic organization was added to the growing list: Archdiocese of New Orleans.
The Archdiocese of New Orleans serves approximately a half million Catholics. Archbishop Gregory Aymond, the leader of the Archdiocese of New Orleans, stated that the decision to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy is “for the good of the church, the victims and survivors.” The Archdiocese has expressed that the filing will not affect individual parishes, schools, or ministries of the church, and normal daily ministry operations will continue.
The Archdiocese conveyed the following in a publicly issued statement, “This reorganization will also allow the Archdiocese to address remaining clergy abuse cases in a way that will allow funds to go directly to victims instead of funding prolonged, costly litigation.” The Archdiocese’s assets are between $100 million and $500 million, and its liabilities are within that same financial range.
Parish payments, by way of assessments and self-insurance premiums, are the largest source of funds for the Archdiocese of New Orleans, but Archbishop Aymond has expressed that payment of abuse claims will not come from parish funds. Instead, they will be generated from other sources, including insurance, investments, and oil and gas royalties. Archbishop Aymond has also stated that, if it came to it, the Archdiocese could sell unused land and buildings.
Survivors do not believe the Archdiocese of New Orleans has survivors’ best interests at heart. As the bankruptcy process proceeds, all other unresolved priest abuse claims will be temporarily halted. Kevin Bourgeois, a leader of the New Orleans chapter of Survivors Network Abused by Priests (SNAP), called the Chapter 11 filing “an act of cowardice.” SNAP leaders believe that the Archdiocese’s decision “is not good for survivors nor today’s Catholics because living predators can remain hidden.”
In the midst of the Archdiocese of New Orleans’ attempts to remedy survivors’ hurt by filing for financial bankruptcy, the religious institution must also remedy years of moral bankruptcy. The latter, however, seems much less attainable. The qualified attorneys at Aylstock, Witkin, Kreis, and Overholtz are committed to bringing justice to survivors of sexual abuse. Please contact us to receive more information.