NEW ORLEANS (ChurchMilitant.com) - An advocacy group for clerical sex abuse victims is pushing for dismissal of a bankruptcy filing by the New Orleans archdiocese.
Members of the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) assert in a July 6 news release the diocese petitioned for bankruptcy in "bad faith." On July 3, SNAP attorneys submitted a motion for dismissal to the U.S. Bankruptcy Court in New Orleans.
The attorneys allege the archdiocese is pursuing the bankruptcy petition "to gain a litigation edge over current and future sexual abuse survivors' claims for justice."
They point out that the vicar of finance, Fr. Patrick Carr, has stated that the archdiocese is "financially solvent" and that Abp. Gregory Aymond has said the same publicly.
"So, if the Archdiocese of New Orleans is NOT bankrupt, why did it file for bankruptcy?" they reasoned. "It seems clear to us that diocesan officials are hiding something. It seems equally clear that Catholic leaders are not telling us the truth about the decision to declare bankruptcy."
Archbishop Aymond, however, maintains that bankruptcy will help resolve cases of clerical predation.
"We have made the difficult decision to pursue Chapter 11 reorganization," Aymond said in May, as he faced a deluge of clerical sex abuse cases draining the archdiocese's coffers.
"Additionally, the unforeseen circumstances surrounding COVID-19 have added more financial hardships to an already difficult situation," he said at the time.
But the archbishop assured the New Orleans faithful that no clerical sex abuse claims would be resolved using money from parish collections and argued filing for bankruptcy will help resolve matters.
Aymond's assurance directly contradicts statements by attorney Jeff Anderson, who specializes in prosecuting clerical sex abuse cases. Anderson warns that bishops are using bankruptcy to shield their assets.
Anderson, who has represented scores of victims in the largest clergy sex abuse bankruptcy settlement in the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, has long been warning that bishops will protect their assets in underhanded ways to minimize settlement payouts.
"They have the upper hand," Anderson said. "They have the advantage that they don't have to adhere to outside scrutiny like corporations. The court of public opinion would have that bishops wouldn't do those kinds of things, but they do, and they have the upper hand."
Anderson's warning resonates with Aymond's managing to avoid a deposition as a result of the archdiocese's declaring bankruptcy.
SNAP's counsel noted that "Aymond was supposed to be deposed on May 28 to discuss the roles he and his four predecessors played in covering up the sex crimes of the priests that they supervised."
"[The deposition] was not going to be a backroom deal," they said. "It was supposed to take place before counsel and a judge, with the archbishop under oath to tell the whole truth 'so help me God.'"
"[Aymond] needs to testify to the truth and not hide behind high-priced corporate lawyers who have over generations been paid millions of dollars to deny justice to survivors of clergy sexual abuse in the New Orleans Archdiocese," according to counsel.
"The people of New Orleans — and the 400,000-plus Catholics who support this archdiocese — deserve the truth," they said.