Bankruptcy court approves $121 million New Mexico clergy abuse settlement

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (CNS) -- A federal bankruptcy judge has approved a $121 million reorganization plan for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, New Mexico, in its yearslong effort to respond to clergy sexual abuse.

The archdiocese and Bankruptcy Judge David T. Thuma announced the settlement Dec. 29 during a court hearing.

Archbishop John C. Wester of Santa Fe thanked a committee of abuse survivors representing other survivors for their commitment to resolving claims against the archdiocese.

"Their challenging work was vital to the success of the settlement and certainly was not easy as they continued to deal with the aftermath of their own abuse," Archbishop Wester said in a statement released by the archdiocese.

"While I hope and pray that the bankruptcy outcome will bring a measure of justice and relief to the victims of clergy sexual abuse, I realize that nothing can ever compensate them for the criminal and horrendous abuse they endured," he said.

The archbishop also pledged that the archdiocese "will remain vigilant in protecting children and young people from clergy sexual abuse, doing all we can to assure them of a safe and protective environment in the Catholic Church."

In addition to monetary payments for the nearly 400 claims filed with the court, the plans under the settlement require the archdiocese to establish a public archive of documents related to decades of abuse in New Mexico and to create a fund against which future unknown claims could be made.

The settlement caps four years of the bankruptcy proceedings for the archdiocese.

Archbishop Wester also said other details of the settlement will be made public in 2023 because "it is our desire to assure everyone that the Archdiocese of Santa Fe has learned from past errors."

In a separate case, the Archdiocese of Seattle announced Nov. 18 that it had agreed to pay nearly $2.3 million over the previous three months to settle five claims from people who alleged they were sexually abused decades ago by clergy and parish school personnel.

The cases date to the 1950s, 1970s and 1980s and three of the five cases involve individuals who have died, the archdiocese said in a news release.

"This announcement is shared to fulfill the archdiocese's commitment to ongoing transparency around allegations of abuse, to help people heal and to help the church move forward," the news release said.

Totaling $2.28 million, the settlements are the most recent of more than 450 cases facing the Seattle Archdiocese. Overall, the archdiocese has paid more than $116 million to settle abuse claims since the 1980s.