Bankrupt Archdiocese Cashes In

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by Bradley Eli, M.Div., Ma.Th.  •  ChurchMilitant.com  •  May 21, 2020   

Santa Fe shorts sex abuse victims

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SANTA FE, N.M. (ChurchMilitant.com) - An archdiocese that filed for bankruptcy owing to clerical sex abuse is receiving nearly $1 million in federal relief funds.

Federal Bankruptcy Court Judge David T. Thuma is ruling the archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico can receive a $900,000 federal loan as part of the $2 trillion COVID-19 relief package set up in March. The U.S. Small Business Administration (SBA) was exempting Santa Fe because the archdiocese had filed for bankruptcy in 2018 owing to clerical sex abuse.

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Judge David T. Thuma

Lepanto Institute founder and president Michael Hichborn told Church Militant the ruling was grossly unjust. 

"It's absolutely appalling that a bishop would apply for government funding in order to help cover the cost of sex abuse lawsuits," remarked Hichborn. "That would be like Al Capone using Chicago city funds to pay off his gambling and prostitution debts!"

Santa Fe isn't the only diocese to seek federal funding after sheltering money from sex abuse victims by filing for bankruptcy protection. Two New York dioceses of Buffalo and Rochester also sued the SBA, for attempting to keep both from receiving federal cash.

The scandal-ridden diocese of Buffalo is attempting to get a $1.7 million loan through the national Paycheck Protection Program, which is a part of the federal pandemic relief package. Rochester, which also filed for bankruptcy owing to sex abuse claims, is likewise seeking nearly $1 million. The SBA tried blocking both dioceses as both had already declared bankruptcy.

Federal officials have reportedly set aside $2.8 million in funding for the dioceses of Buffalo and Rochester while the lawsuits against SBA play out.

Santa Fe Abp. John Wester filed for bankruptcy protection in 2018 just one day after law enforcement officials raided his chancery looking for documents related to charges of clerical sex abuse. Hichborn says giving federal cash to bankrupt dioceses is even more grievous when they're run by prelates like Wester.

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"While some of these bishops inherited a mess and are finding it difficult to get the diocese above water, prelates like Abp. Wester are part of the problem," observed Hichborn

He then went into Wester's past delicts, which include promoting a heretical group of some 1,200 U.S. priests called the Association of United States Catholics Priests. The group openly advocates for the ordination of gay men as well as the ordination of women deacons and married priests. The Lepanto Institute president explains,

Abp. Wester is the USCCB's liaison to the heretical Association of United States Catholic Priests, whose advocacy for homosexuality is well known. While in Salt Lake City, Abp. Wester appointed as his diocesan social justice director a woman who publicly advocated for abortion, contraception and homosexuality while running for public office. He has made his bed, so he should lie in it.

Wester also made headlines in September owing to allegations that he was harboring a suspended child-molester priest. The priest in question, Fr. Milton Walsh was from the archdiocese of San Francisco and was suspended from ministry owing to molesting a 13-year-old altar boy, Jay Seaman, in 1984. The Albuquerque Journal published a story in September revealing that Walsh has stayed at various places in Wester's archdiocese while he was ordinary.

Prelates like Abp. Wester are part of the problem.
More than 160 dioceses have applied for pandemic relief funds, according to statistics compiled by the Diocesan Fiscal Management Conference. This includes some 8,000 parishes, 1,400 elementary schools, 700 high schools, 104 chanceries and 185 Catholic Charities agencies as well as an additional 200 other diocesan organizations.

Other dioceses will be joining Santa Fe, Buffalo and Rochester in seeking federal funding while sheltering money from victims of sex abuse as more than 20 dioceses have already filed for bankruptcy or are planning to do so.

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