In recent years, thousands of victims have come forward all over the world to speak about their abuse at the hands of members of the clergy. Many of them have also taken action, filing lawsuits against the individuals and institutions that perpetrated and covered up the abuse.
For church organizations, these lawsuits have brought a reckoning, but they have also brought about risk. As churches and other organizations have paid out large sums in settlements and verdicts, their finances have taken a hit. Some organizations, such as the Archdiocese of New Orleans, have gone so far as to file for bankruptcy protection.
However, some activists claim that these bankruptcy filings are not legitimate. Some activists in Louisiana say financial disclosures show the New Orleans Archdiocese is actually solvent. They claim the organization is using bankruptcy in an effort to protect itself from clergy abuse lawsuits.
Bankruptcy judge cracks down
Recently, the judge overseeing the Archdiocese’s bankruptcy ordered the organization to stop paying stipends to certain priests who have been accused of sexual abuse. Specifically, the order affects priests who were accused of abuse in cases that were not listed as “credibly accused” on the Archdiocese’s registry of accusations.
The Archdiocese keeps a list of accusations, which it sorts according to whether its reviewers deem the accusation credible or not. The bankruptcy judge previously ordered the archdiocese to cease paying stipends to priests who were the subject of accusations it had deemed credible.
By filing for bankruptcy, individuals and organizations can temporarily receive broad protections. In many cases, these can include protections from liability in civil lawsuits.
However, these protections are not absolute. Victims of clergy abuse should not be discouraged by the fact that the Archdiocese of New Orleans currently has protections under bankruptcy law. Victims and their attorneys continue to fight for justice.