Scandal-hit US archidiocese to file for bankruptcy

Los Angeles (AFP) –


The Archdiocese of Santa Fe, which is facing a litany of lawsuits in New Mexico over claims of sexual abuse committed by priests, has announced it will file for bankruptcy protection.

The archdiocese will proceed with a so-called "Chapter 11" filing, which allows an entity to keep functioning as it undergoes reorganization, while paying its creditors over time.

Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester said that the archdiocese had already paid millions of dollars to settle claims of child sex abuse committed over the years. The terms of most of those deals are confidential.

Another 35 to 40 claims are outstanding, he told reporters on Thursday.

"We could see where this was all leading and the trajectory wasn't changing. We just don't have the money. If we're not here, we can't help anybody," Wester said.

"It's not a wealthy archdiocese. The churches, the parishes, the schools are going forward in their own way. The cases we've mediated and compensated have come from our reserves."

Wester insisted that his "first and foremost concern" was abuse victims, and making sure they received "just compensation."

The archdiocese said in a statement that the Chapter 11 reorganization would allow for "full financial transparency" about its operations and properties.

Several American dioceses and archdioceses have filed for bankruptcy protection in recent years as they confront their own claims of clergy sex abuse, local media reported.

The Catholic Church is battling an ongoing abuse scandal in numerous countries around the world, with new victims coming forward and church leaders accused of being slow in delivering an adequate response.