Judge: Victims can sue Santa Fe Archdiocese over transfer

Albuquerque News

FILE – In this Nov. 29, 2018, file photo, Archbishop John C. Wester, head of the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, talks during a news conference in Santa Fe. New Mexico’s largest Catholic diocese has filed a complaint against the U.S. Small Business Administration. The Archdiocese of Santa Fe claims the agency is illegally blocking it from applying for federal aid meant to help businesses affected by the coronavirus outbreak. (AP Photo/Susan Montoya Bryan, File)

ALBUQUERQUE, N.M. (AP) — A U.S. bankruptcy judge has ruled that lawyers for clergy sex abuse survivors can file lawsuits alleging the Archdiocese of Santa Fe fraudulently transferred millions to avoid bigger payouts to victims.

The Albuquerque Journal reports the recent decision by Judge David T. Thuma in the Chapter 11 reorganization case opens the door to what could be a multimillion-dollar boon to hundreds of alleged victims. Or it could set off protracted, costly legal appeals that would tap funds that could have paid valid abuse claims.

Lawyers for the 94 archdiocese parishes, several of which predate the archdiocese by many decades or even centuries, predicted at a court hearing in August that the “decimation” of certain parishes would result if the lawsuits into the transfers go forward.

Negotiations between the parties have stalled in the nearly 2-year-old bankruptcy case, which the archdiocese filed in late 2018 to deal with a surge of claims alleging childhood sexual abuse perpetrated by priests and other clergy. An estimated $52 million has been paid in out-of-court settlements to victims in prior years.

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