Attorneys for alleged victims of church sex abuse respond to Archdiocese of New Orleans bankruptcy filing
NEW ORLEANS, La. (WVUE) - Attorneys for alleged church sex abuse victims with pending lawsuits against the Archdiocese of New Orleans released the following statement Friday responding to the Archdiocese’s bankruptcy filing.
STATEMENT OF VICTIM-SURVIVORS’ LEGAL TEAM:
“Regarding the Archdiocese’s midnight filing for bankruptcy, Archbishop Gregory Aymond stated, “I strongly believe that this path will allow victims and survivors of clergy abuse to resolve their claims in a fair and timely manner.” Unfortunately, this is not what our client-survivors believe, and of course, Abp. Aymond made no attempt to find out what the victim-survivors believed. When he released the incomplete list of pedophile clergy on November 2, 2018, Abp. Aymond said he wanted “justice” for the victims and promised to be totally transparent. He then proceeded to spend ungodly amounts of money fighting these very same victims in court and being the exact opposite of transparent. This bankruptcy brings all pending lawsuits, including the depositions of Aymond and other Archdiocese officials, to a grinding halt. Abp. Aymond will never have to face a single victim before a jury.
The Archdiocese sought to keep internal documents of decades of sexual abuse hidden from the public. The Archdiocese sought to keep the victims from understanding the full weight and scope of its intentional, conscious scheme to protect, promote, and pay child rapists. Its bankruptcy filing is more of the same.
The Archdiocese was consulting with bankruptcy lawyers long before the covid shutdown. In open court on March 11th, we asked the Archdiocese lawyers about the potential for this very bankruptcy, but they refused to answer. Ten days before the Archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in the dead of night during a pandemic, we sent a letter to the Archdiocese lawyers offering to meet with them to discuss the parameters of what this bankruptcy might look like to help the survivors. Again, the survivors’ attorneys got no response. Aymond’s actions through his lawyers speak much louder than his lip service to the media. He wants justice, fairness, and timeliness for himself and the church, not for the victims of diseased pedophiles.
Just 4 months ago, The Archdiocese boasted that it had shrunk its 14-million-dollar budget deficit in 2018 to under one million dollars for the fiscal year 2019. Last August, Aymond assured area Catholics that the Archdiocese was in good financial shape, and if necessary, he could turn to “benefactors” to assist him with funding payment of clergy abuse claims. In his video statement today, not once did he use the word “bankruptcy.”
In January of this year, one of Abp. Aymond’s lawyers used the phrase “witch hunt” while describing a case bought by a victim of notorious pedophile deacon George Brignac. Indeed, it is apparent through the actions of the Archdiocese and its lawyers that this is what they really think about these victim-survivors pursuing justice.”
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests or SNAP also released a statement:
“Church officials in New Orleans have decided to declare bankruptcy, a move that is less about protecting assets and more about protecting secrets.
This a disappointing but not surprising move, as Archbishop Gregory Aymond now follows in the footsteps of dozens of catholic officials who have chosen to declare bankruptcy rather than allow survivors of clergy sexual abuse to bring their claims forward in open court.
Bankruptcy proceedings often lead to increased secrecy as church officials typically use the bankruptcy process to freeze discovery, which freezes the discovery of exactly who enabled abuse, and how. This decision is not good for survivors nor today's Catholics because living predators can remain hidden, their enabler still in power. The only people this decision helps are the church officials who have enabled and hidden abuse.
In short, bankruptcy will shield Aymond from being forced to testify what he and his predecessors did to empower, enable, and cover up the abuse of innocents.
With this decision, the citizens of New Orleans will have another example of the priorities of the Archdiocese of New Orleans – retaining power, protecting reputations, and saving money. It is highly unlikely that an institution with such a wealth of assets as the Archdiocese of New Orleans is truly bankrupt, and church officials have long hidden money and assets in order to protect them when they choose this secretive route.
We call on Governor John Bel Edwards to intervene in this bankruptcy in any way that he can. We also call on A.G. Jeff Landry to use the powers of his office, including subpoena power, to get to the answers and secrets that church officials are trying to keep secret by moving to bankruptcy court. It is through secular officials like these that the public will learn the truth, so we hope that they will intervene and investigate as soon as possible.”
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