It was with disappointment that we read Jim Keenan’s misleading commentary (“It’s the archdiocese, not survivors’ attorneys, that ought to give more,” April 6). Contrary to his assertion, the archdiocese did not file for bankruptcy in order to “prevent sexual-abuse cases from moving forward” but rather to make sure that all claimants would be treated fairly, not just the few who made it first to the courthouse steps.
As for our commitment to restitution, it is the federal bankruptcy court that serves as the outside guarantor of both our claim of transparency and our commitment to resolving claims for past injuries in an equitable manner. Because we filed for bankruptcy, Keenan does not have to rely on the church’s word that the archdiocese has made a full inventory of available assets. Let him listen to bankruptcy Judge Robert Kressel, who unambiguously stated that the claim that the archdiocese is shielding and hiding assets is “not true.”
For more than a year, the archdiocese has made available $156 million to compensate survivors, which includes unprecedented amounts of insurance proceeds. This hardly constitutes “fighting survivors,” who could have accepted this very substantial offer a long time ago. Keenan is correct that the failure to obtain a consensus does not hinge upon attorney fees. Our legal expenditures have been substantial, but they have also been a reasonable investment toward the achievement of our twin goals of accepting responsibility and putting victims first. That investment has led to the remarkable increase in the pool of assets available today.
Frankly, what has hindered resolution is the fiction, perpetuated by counsel for the claimants and sadly repeated in Keenan’s counterpoint, that the archdiocese has more than $1 billion of assets available to settle claims. That is not true. Judge Kressel and the federal district court have both rejected the baseless legal theory underlying that false statement.
Those rulings should not be surprising. Ask your Catholic neighbors if the archbishop has unfettered access to their parish savings, or if he can sell their school buildings and take the proceeds, or if he can take money they donated to charities for sheltering the homeless, feeding the hungry or clothing the needy. The courts are correct. The archbishop cannot do that.
Hopefully, the court-ordered mediation will help us all find common ground to resolve this matter very soon. We share Keenan’s sadness that claimants are dying without seeing a resolution to their cases. Everyone involved knows that each additional month in bankruptcy can be expected to reduce the amount available to claimants by $500,000, given the substantial fees for professionals and lawyers from firms in addition to Jeff Anderson’s representing the Unsecured Creditors Committee (of which Keenen is chairman), the archdiocese (for which we share responsibility) and other creditors (e.g. the parishes of the archdiocese). This is simply unsustainable and must end to ensure a fair resolution.
Thomas J. Abood is chair, Archdiocesan Finance Council. Karen Rauenhorst and Brian Short are members of the Archdiocesan Board of Directors.