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The long-running bankruptcy reorganization filed by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe to address clergy abuse claims has reached a pivotal stage, with all parties entering what could be a final mediation session this week.
Albuquerque attorney Thomas Walker, who represents the archdiocese, told U.S. Bankruptcy Judge David Thuma on Friday that the mediation session beginning Monday involving the archdiocese, Catholic parishes, insurance companies and attorneys of 374 clergy survivors of sexual abuse is “more important than ever”.
“The debtor (the Archdiocese) remains optimistic that a settlement can be reached. We want to see if we can conclude this,” Walker said during a hearing in the case.
If all parties fail to reach a settlement, he added, “we may not have another opportunity.”
For months, negotiations in this case have revolved around how much Archdiocesan insurance companies should contribute to the mass of money needed to compensate victims who were sexually abused by priests and other members. of the clergy in their childhood.
“This case is over 3 years old and we would like to close it as well,” said Jim Stang, a Los Angeles attorney who represents the creditors’ committee for victims of abuse.
“We would like to conclude with a reorganization plan, but if this upcoming mediation does not result in a resolution of this matter, the (survivors’) committee will consider alternatives which will include a review of whether the chapter process 11 serves survivors at all, plus,” Stang told the judge.
Victims’ attorneys have considered asking Thuma to allow their clients to return to state district court and file individual abuse lawsuits, which would open the door to public hearings and possibly large payouts. . About three dozen ongoing lawsuits were stayed once the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in December 2018. At the time, Archbishop John Wester said he hoped the bankruptcy action would help stem the financial losses to the Archdiocese and to ensure compensation for survivors.
Texas mediator Paul J. Van Osselaer is the third mediator to attempt to resolve the case.
“This next two-day session is very important, and it’s even more important and I think as the few hours go by, it becomes essential not to get closer but to get it done,” Walker said.