$121.5M settlement in New Mexico clergy sex abuse scandal

One of the oldest Catholic dioceses in the United States has announced a settlement agreement to resolve a bankruptcy case in New Mexico that resulted from a clergy sex abuse scandal

Archbishop John C. Wester, head of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, N.M.

By The Associated Press

One of the oldest Catholic dioceses in the United States announced a settlement agreement Tuesday to resolve a bankruptcy case in New Mexico that resulted from a clergy sex abuse scandal.

The tentative deal totals $121.5 million and would involve about 375 claimants.

The proposed settlement comes as the Catholic Church continues to wrestles with a sex abuse and cover-up scandal that has spanned the globe. Some of the allegations in New Mexico date back decades.

The chairman of a creditors committee that negotiated the agreement on behalf of the surviving victims and others said it would hold the Archdiocese of Santa Fe accountable for the abuse and result in one of the largest diocese contributions to a bankruptcy settlement in U.S. history.

It also includes a non-monetary agreement with the Archdiocese to create a public archive of documents regarding the history of the sexual abuse claims, committee chairman Charles Paez said.

“The tenacity and courage of New Mexico survivors empowered us to reach a recommended settlement that addresses the needs of the survivors on a timely basis,” he said in a statement Tuesday.

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe filed the Chapter 11 bankruptcy case seeking protection from creditors in 2018.

The settlement still must be approved by the abuse victims. It includes funds from sales or property and other assets, contributions from parishes and insurance proceeds. It does not include settlement of any claims against any religious orders, lawyers for both sides said.

“The church takes very seriously its responsibility to see the survivors of sexual abuse are justly compensated for the suffering they have endured,” John C. Wester, archbishop of Santa Fe, said in a statement Tuesday.

“It is our hope that this settlement is the next step in the healing of those who have been harmed,” he said.

In New Mexico, some 74 priests have been deemed “credibly accused” of sexually assaulting children while assigned to parishes and schools by the Archdiocese, which covers central and northern New Mexico.

Established in the 1850s after the Mexican-American War, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe filed for reorganization in late 2018 to deal with a surge of claims. An estimated $52 million has been paid in out-of-court settlements to victims in prior years.

“No amount of money can undo the pain and trauma that our clients and their families have suffered,” Dan Fasy, a lawyer who represented some of the victims, said Tuesday. “But we hope this settlement can bring some form of closure and healing to the abuse survivors we were privileged to represent.”

 

Bishop takes part in gay blessing services in Germany

This year, for the first time, a German bishop took part, the auxiliary Bishop of Essen, Ludger Schepers.

People with pride flags over their shoulders in Max-Josephs-Platz, in Munich in February this year.

by Christa Pongratz-Lippitt, Christopher Lamb

The grass-roots #liebegewinnt, or “love wins”,  campaign in Germany again held blessing services for all couples who loved each other, including LGBTQ couples, but numbers were down compared to last year – from 110 to 80 services nationwide.

The #liebegewinnt campaign, held this year on 10 May, began last year as a reaction to the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith’s (CDF’s) “no” to same-sex blessings which was published on 15 March, 2021.

The CDF said: “It is not licit to impart a blessing on relationships, or partnerships, even stable, that involve sexual activity outside of marriage, as is the case of the unions between persons of the same sex. The presence in such relationships of positive elements, which are in themselves to be valued and appreciated, cannot justify these relationships and render them legitimate objects of an ecclesial blessing, since the positive elements exist within the context of a union not ordered to the Creator’s plan.”

This year, however, for the first time, a German bishop took part. The auxiliary Bishop of Essen, Ludger Schepers, who is responsible for pastoral work with the LGBTQ community in the German bishops’ conference, took part in an ecumenical blessing service that also included remarried divorcee couples in the Marktkirche in Essen.

There were no blessing services in Munich or Augsburg this year. A Munich priest, Fr Wolfgang Rothe, who held a blessing service for couples who loved each other including people from the LGBTQ community last year in Munich, published a statement explaining that this year he had been unable to find a church in which he could hold a blessing ceremony. “All my inquiries either remained unanswered or were rejected,” he said.

Renate Spanning, a spokeswoman for Maria 2.0, the German Catholic women’s church reform initiative, which took part in a blessing ceremony last year, told Bavarian Radio that she was “frustrated”. Several German bishops had recently spoken of the need to reform the Church’s teaching on homosexuality, she said, adding: “Blessing ceremonies would surely be the logical consequence now. But when it actually comes to embedding their oral admission liturgically, there is no one to be found!”

•Pope Francis’ recent “mini-interview” on the topic of LGBTQ Catholics provides some of the building blocks for a re-imagined ministry to gay people.

“A ‘selective’ church, one of ‘pure blood,’ is not Holy Mother Church, but rather a sect,” the Pope explained in a handwritten reply to questions from Fr James Martin, a Jesuit priest and founder of the “LGBTQ Catholic resource”, Outreach. “What would you say is the most important thing for LGBT people to know about God?” Fr Martin asked on behalf of Outreach.  “God is Father and he does not disown any of his children. And the ‘style’ of God is ‘closeness, mercy and tenderness’. Along this path you will find God,” Francis replied.

Complete Article HERE!

Catholic bishops ask US Supreme Court to review California’s sex abuse law

FILE UNDER: Insulated, monolithic, callous, tone deaf church power structure

by Emily Hoeven

Could California find itself in another conflict with the U.S. Supreme Court?

Nine California Catholic dioceses and archdioceses have asked the nation’s highest court to review their case against a 2019 law signed by Gov. Gavin Newsom, which created a three-year window for survivors of childhood sexual abuse to file legal claims against alleged perpetrators at school, church or elsewhere, regardless of when the alleged abuse occurred. The law also allowed defendants to be sued for a new offense: “cover up” activity.

In the April 15 petition, which was first reported last week by the Catholic News Agency, lawyers for the Catholic bishops assert the law is unconstitutional because California already gave victims a chance to sue in 2002 — when it opened a one-year portal for sex abuse survivors to file claims with no time limit attached — and because it retroactively adds new liabilities.

  • The lawyers wrote: “Review is critical now, before the Catholic Church in the largest State in the union is forced to litigate hundreds or thousands of cases seeking potentially billions of dollars in retroactive punitive damages under an unconstitutional double-revival regime.”
  • They added that their clients have already paid more than $1.2 billion to resolve claims filed during the original one-year window, and “to finance these settlements, they expended significant resources, sold vast swaths of Church property, and in some cases exhausted or relinquished insurance coverage for past and future abuse claims.”
  • The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests slammed the bishops’ petition: “The 2002 window lasted one year, barely enough time for victims to find their courage or their voices. Many only heard about the window or found their courage too late. This new three-year window is allowing survivors in a huge state the time to speak out, get help, and come forward. We believe it is that bravery that is scaring California’s Catholic bishops.”

Newsom’s office declined to comment: “We have nothing to add at this time,” Daniel Lopez, Newsom’s deputy communications director, told me in an email.

But the petition, which came came less than a month before Politico published a draft U.S. Supreme Court majority opinion showing justices are poised to overturn the federal constitutional right to an abortion, could spark the latest standoff between California and the high court.

In other reproductive justice news: Attorney General Rob Bonta announced Monday that Kings County District Attorney Keith Fagundes dropped criminal charges against Adora Perez, whom he had previously charged with manslaughter after she delivered a stillborn baby while high on methamphetamine. “California law is clear: We do not criminalize people for the loss of a pregnancy,” Bonta said.

Complete Article HERE!

I have been Catholic all my life. A new Milwaukee Archdiocese policy on transgender people has driven me from my church.

Archbishop Jerome Edward Listecki

By Anne Curley

As a cradle Catholic whose values were shaped by 12 years of Catholic education and 60-plus years of Mass attendance, I feel great gratitude for the countless caring sisters, priests and Catholic laypeople who have guided and inspired me through much of my life. I’ve been proud to be associated with the good done by Catholic schools, hospitals and charitable organizations throughout the world.

So it’s with real sadness that I’ve joined the throng who have left the church.

The recently released policy of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on how to treat transgender individuals has made it impossible for me, in good conscience, to call myself a Catholic.

I didn’t come to this decision lightly. When friends would ask, “How can you be a Catholic despite (choose one or more) the clergy sex abuse scandal, the ban on women priests, the treatment of homosexuality as a disorder, the rules on birth control … I had three well-honed responses:

“A 2,000-year-old, global institution doesn’t change quickly,” “Show me a major human institution that isn’t a mixed bag of strengths and corruption,” and “It’s the good, grace-filled people that keep me hanging in there — not the policies.”

Still, I can’t say I relished the mental gymnastics required to justify why I continued to be a practicing Catholic.

The justifications ran out when I read “Catechesis and policy on questions concerning gender theory,” a stunningly harsh new directive from the archdiocese covering Catholic parishes, organizations and institutions.

In no uncertain terms, it spells out how all employees, volunteers and vendors at these institutions are to treat transgender individuals. Among other dictates, it includes, “Recognize only a person’s biological sex,” “No person may designate a ‘preferred pronoun’ in speech or in writing” and “All persons are to follow the dress code or uniform that accords with their biological sex.”

The document begins by saying, “’The truth will set you free.’ Christ’s words to his disciples call Christians in every age to embrace the truth of who we are as children of God, for only in embracing this truth can we be set free.”

I believe that truth is embedded in each of us — that God implanted a unique identity that is ours alone to experience, express and put to good use during our time on Earth.  The fact that society is becoming more accepting of differences in our identities — race, sexual orientation and gender expression being prime examples — strikes me as part of God’s unfolding plan to enable each of us to achieve our full potential.

I am not an expert on it, but I think it’s safe to say the subject of gender identity is complex, nuanced and not a good candidate for rigid rules. What I know for sure is that my Catholic education taught me Jesus identified with those whom the rule-makers rejected. I learned that he reserved his harshest criticism for religious leaders who piled heavy burdens on others. Thanks to my Catholic formation, I know that to be Christian means to uplift the dignity of others, especially those who most need uplifting.

So how can I be a committed Christian and go along with a policy that, instead of emphasizing compassionate care, institutionalizes the oppression of people because of who they are?

What would Jesus do?

Complete Article HERE!

Justice is coming, slowly, in clergy sex abuse cases

Pope Francis waves from a window during the Regina Caeli prayer in St. Peter’s Square at the Vatican on May 8.

The road toward justice for the victims of clergy sex abuse has been long, tortuous and littered with legal minefields. But increasingly in the past few years, it has led to milestones involving accountability for the Catholic Church, and restitution for individuals preyed upon as children. That it has taken two decades in many cases is maddening, but breakthroughs even at this late date are critically important.

In April, a Catholic diocese in the Philadelphia suburbs of southern New Jersey agreed to pay nearly $88 million to settle claims by several hundred people, many of them now elderly, who say they were abused as children. For many of the 300 or so plaintiffs in the Diocese of Camden, it will mean payouts in the range of $300,000, with the possibility of additional amounts stemming from separate lawsuits against insurance companies, parishes and schools.

The Camden settlement was among the biggest in the nation, larger even than one in Boston, where the first revelations surfaced 20 years ago of systematic church involvement in covering up clergy sex abuse. It is also partly the legacy of a blockbuster 2018 grand jury report in Pennsylvania that documented allegations against more than 300 priests accused of abusing more than 1,000 children over decades.

The effect of that report was to overcome powerful interests, including the Catholic Church, private schools and insurance companies, that had lobbied successfully in state legislatures to thwart restitution and accountability by impeding sex abuse cases against minors stretching back for decades. In particular, they blocked the establishment of so-called look-back windows that would enable lawsuits to be filed for a finite period well after statutes of limitation had expired — a key reform given that many victims of childhood abuse take years to come to grips with the traumas they have suffered. That dam of obstruction was broken after the Pennsylvania report, including by legislation enacted in New York, New Jersey and more than a dozen other states.

Relaxed statutes of limitations have meant scores of bankruptcy filings by dioceses as well as a tsunami of lawsuits by victims. The downside is upheaval in the Catholic Church, an institution that remains a touchstone for millions of Americans. The upside is, if not a sense of closure, at least an acknowledgment of the damage done, and trauma inflicted, across U.S. communities. Prayers for the victims were inadequate; they deserved, and in many cases have now received, legal redress of their pain and grievances.

This story is not over, nor should it be. Last year, Pope Francis ordered changes in the church’s own penal code to allow clerics who leverage power imbalances to abuse not only children but also adults to be expelled from the priesthood. However, the Vatican has continued to resist uniform reporting of child abuse to civil authorities, which it says could put clergy at risk in some countries. In both the United States and overseas, major new reports have continued to document the scale and scope of abuse over decades. That important work must continue.

Complete Article HERE!