Beginning of bankruptcy mediations for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe

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The hope is that this week’s mediation will be successful. Success here would mean lawyers representing hundreds of abuse survivors, the church and the insurance company involved agree on how much the archdiocese should pay. This mediation, closed to the public, began on Monday.

With growing allegations of clergy sex abuse, Archbishop John Wester felt he had no choice but to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in December 2018.

“I want to make it clear that our primary concern is for victims of sexual abuse and our desire to provide fair compensation,” Wester said.

But efforts to achieve this just compensation have now entered their fourth year. The church sold properties, laid off employees and scaled back operations to try to raise enough money to pay a settlement to 374 victims of clergy sex abuse. Attorney Levi Monagle is representing 145 of them.

“There are certainly heavy financial demands from all of the survivors of this bankruptcy. I will say, based on what all of these people have been through, we’re not even scratching the surface of what these people have really been through,” Monagle said.

The exact dollar figure is confidential at this time. But court records show the church’s insurance company was reluctant to pay its share and the church needed time to raise its own funds for the victims.

Chris Ramierz: In general, what do they expect? What do they hope will be the most ideal outcome of all this?

Levi Monagle: I would say that all of our customers would prefer to see this case resolved as soon as possible.

There’s a chance that this week’s mediation won’t be successful and those survivors won’t get the resolution that Monagle is talking about. So what?

Monagle says the church’s entire Chapter 11 case could be dismissed.

Think about this – now – because the church has declared bankruptcy, the archdiocese is handling a massive settlement – to be paid to all claimants. If the court rejects the bankruptcy filing, the church is left behind at least 374 individual lawsuits in state courts — where it could go to juries that could award massive payouts. It would be disastrous for the church and it would lead to further delays for the victims.

So, there is really motivation this week for this mediation to be a success.

The mediation is supposed to last possibly until Wednesday.

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