A major deadline in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe’s Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization process is fast approaching. Survivors of sexual abuse have until June 17, 2019, to file claims against the archdiocese.
Levi Monagle is an attorney with Hall & Monagle, LLC in Albuquerque. The firm currently represents about a hundred survivors, including some who serve on a creditors’ committee on behalf of all survivors. He told KUNM that people who file a claim have to answer specific questions about what they experienced.
MONAGLE: There’s questions about the age someone was when they were abused, questions about the type of abuse they suffered, and then questions about the impact of the abuse on a survivor’s life. Those questions can be in some ways the most difficult ones to answer, because so frequently people are just dealing with this for the first time, and they haven’t really been able to or had time to unpack the significance of the abuse in their lives, to grapple with the impact it had on their life. So that’s where we really try to help people, put them in contact with therapists, or just sort of ask them questions from our experience that lead to information about how it has impacted a survivor’s life.
KUNM: And in general, the standard of proof when we’re talking about claims in a bankruptcy situation is really different than the amount of evidence, say, you would need in a trial.
MONAGLE: Yeah, that’s true. In this setting, you are putting forth information to show the plausibility and credibility of a claim. Peoples’ stories aren’t being gone over with a fine-toothed comb in the bankruptcy process the way that might happen in litigation or in a lawsuit. Their accounts are taken at face value, and their proof-of-claim packets are under-oath statements, so the courts and the archdiocese put a lot of stock in that.
KUNM: This June 17 filing deadline concludes the first major phase of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe bankruptcy process. So what happens next?
MONAGLE: After the archdiocese and the court are apprised of the number who have come forward to bring claims, they’ll take probably four or five weeks to process all that information. Then they have to start negotiating with the creditor’s committee, who represents the interests of all victims in this bankruptcy, about next steps.
Ultimately, what the archdiocese is hoping to get out of this bankruptcy process is a court-approved plan for reparations, basically, for survivors, and then what’s called an injunction, which is a court order that prevents them from being sued in the future.
So that’s the bottom line for them. If they can get a plan, they can close this chapter of their history. That’s the major reason that the archdiocese has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, but in order to get that protection, they have to make this good-faith reparations effort.
KUNM: The creditor’s committee is a group of nine survivors of priest sexual abuse who are gonna be involved in those negotiations all the way through. What kinds of reparations do you expect that group will be asking for, beside monetary reparations?
MONAGLE: Our anticipation, just from looking at what’s happened in prior church bankruptcies, is that there will be some kind of fund set aside for people who just are not psychologically able to come forward by this June 17 deadline. The access to those future funds is going to be limited and difficult, and so I think it’s still really important that people come forward by June 17 if they’re going to; that’s the best-case scenario. But that’s a major negotiating item.
The other major thing that’s particularly important here in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe is document transparency. There is this vast pool of documents that the Archdiocese of Santa Fe has managed to keep secret – via court orders, largely – for the past 25-30 years. That’s a huge chapter of our state’s history detailed in those documents. [There are] priest personnel files for abusive priests, the personnel board minutes where transfers of abusive priests were discussed, psychological evaluations of some of these priests, depositions of church officials, all these things have kind of sat behind confidentiality orders for all these years.
I think it’s a major goal of the creditor’s committee in this bankruptcy to ensure that those documents are made publicly available so that people can read about how this happened, and hopefully by learning about it, make sure it never happens again.
For more information, call the creditors' committee at 1-888-570-6217 or the Archdiocese’s debtor hotline at (505) 831-8144.
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