Is the Santa Fe Archdiocese Inconsistent on Bankruptcy Proceedings?

News: US News
by David Nussman  •  •  January 7, 2019   

Archdiocese said bankruptcy filing would not impact parishes — recent memo may suggest otherwise

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SANTA FE, N.M. ( - The archdiocese of Santa Fe has hinted that its bankruptcy proceedings might impact parishes, contradicting previous statements from the archdiocese.

The Santa Fe archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in late November, just one day after law enforcement raided the chancery for evidence on sex abuse cases. Now, some say the archdiocese is contradicting itself on how much the bankruptcy filing will impact parish life.

Father Clarence Maes, president of the archdiocese's Presbyteral Council and chair of the newly formed Steering Committee for Parish Legal Representation, said in a letter to parish staff dated Jan. 4, "Parishes and their leadership have to be made aware of how [the diocese filing for bankruptcy] may affect them."

Church Militant received a copy of the letter sent to parishes of the Santa Fe archdiocese.

But some feel that this contradicts what the archdiocese has been saying since November: that parishes would not be affected by the bankruptcy claim.

A webpage about the bankruptcy filing on the archdiocese's website states, "For the foreseeable future, current wages and benefits will continue to be paid. It is not anticipated that parishes, schools, or other services that are provided within the archdiocese will be affected."

In an email to Church Militant, an insider in the archdiocese complained about this apparent contradiction, saying, "We were told at the onset the bankruptcy wouldn't affect the parishes. Also, we are incorporated, independent units, yet the details in this letter want a common pool."

"Santa Fe is deceitful, corrupt and duplicitous," the source said of the archdiocese. "The archbishop has two sides to his mouth and speaks from both."

The archbishop the source alludes to is Abp. John Wester, head of the Santa Fe archdiocese.

Church Militant was told during further correspondence that "each parish is now incorporated and spoken of as independent entities, yet still being lumped together when it suits their interests."

The source believes that the bankruptcy proceedings "will inevitably bring about parish closures, especially rural ones," and opined that the archdiocese is putting the poorer rural parishes in a tough spot since many are unable to pay for their own attorneys and will have to join a pool of parishes under the Parish Legal Defense Fund.

The source tried to put Church Militant in touch with other local Catholics of like mind. But as of press time, Church Militant did not receive comments from another person it had been in contact with.

Church Militant contacted the archdiocese of Santa Fe requesting comment on the recent memo to parishes but did not receive a response in time for publishing.

In June 2018, Santa Fe's Abp. Wester allowed the Association of U.S. Catholic Priests (AUSCP) to host their annual conference in his archdiocese. AUSCP is a liberal, dissident organization of Catholic clergy based in Ohio. It has a well-known reputation for liberalism and theological dissent.

The priests' group released a statement in 2017 calling for "open discussion" of women priests — something which would be in defiance of Catholic teaching on the priesthood — and greater openness to married priests in the Roman Rite. AUSCP has called for allowing men with homosexual tendencies into the priesthood, arguing that it would make the Church "more respectful and inclusive."

In 2016, Abp. Wester agreed to help out with AUSCP in a leadership role as the "Episcopal Moderator," being listed in that role on the organization's website.

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