And, typically, they provided a Q and A of everything the Archdiocese wants you to know, as well as bulletin and pulpit announcements to be used at each of the 'separately incorporated' parishes that the Archdiocese claims it does not control. Ahem.
What the Archdiocese does not mention is that what they are seeking is called, in bankruptcy terminology, a cram down. In other words, the Archdiocese is asking the bankruptcy court to cram down the throats of the victims of sexual abuse and other unsecured creditors its reorganization plan, over the objections of those same creditors.
And Jesus wept.
Yesterday, I signed an affidavit in support of substantive consolidation in the bankruptcy case involving the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. Substantive consolidation is an equitable remedy available to bankruptcy courts whereby the assets of entities closely related to the debtor, in this case the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis, are combined into the bankruptcy estate.
At the heart of a motion for substantive consolidation is the question of equity and fairness. American law does not allow a corporation like the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis to misuse the benefits of the separate corporate forms of, say, parishes or foundations, to unfairly deprive creditors like the victims of sexual abuse by clergy. In other words, the test for whether substantive consolidation is appropriate in a given case is determined by the degree of interrelatedness between the entities to be consolidated and the parent organization.
I was hired as an expert witness in this case, to offer my opinion as to whether the legal standards and factual predicates for substantive consolidation exist. The payment I have received is a $2000 retainer, which is the standard retainer I require for my services.
I support the motion for substantive consolidation in this case for four primary reasons.
1) The request to consolidate does not include Catholic Charities or Commonbond Communities. This means that those organizations are not impacted by this motion, and they will continue to provide the charitable and compassionate care upon which their much-deserved reputations are based.
2) The request seeks to make more assets available to compensate the victims of sexual abuse of minors by clergy. Two years ago I proposed a means of promoting reconciliation and reparation for victims, and at that time I noted that organizations like the Catholic Community Foundation were established as a way to insulate funds belonging or donated to the Archdiocese from potential legal judgments and settlements. At that time the website of the Catholic Community Foundation stated that it was founded to support the ‘spiritual, educational and social needs of our Catholic community.’ I asked then, as I ask now, if making reparation towards those who have been harmed in such unspeakable ways by our clergy is not also a spiritual and social need of this Catholic community. I believe we cannot turn a blind eye to the harm and suffering experienced by those individuals, most of whom are or were members of our Catholic community, to preserve advantages for others.
3) The motion and my affidavit will expose the ways in which the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis has harmed the pastors, assistants, and the lay leadership of the parishes, schools, and affiliated entities within this Archdiocese. This scandal began when the Archdiocese imposed sexually abusive clergy on parishes and their unsuspecting communities, not even offering the courtesy of a warning to parents and others responsible for the well-being of children and other vulnerable people. In addition, those of us who remember the 2010 Strategic Plan and subsequent decisions made regarding the subsidizing of parishes and schools will recall the arbitrary and unfair nature of the decisions that were imposed and then attributed to ‘local decisions’. And, those of you who are parish and school employees or who have been otherwise impacted by recent decisions regarding payroll providers and benefits plans will know that the same type of heavy-handed control continues. This is not only an abuse of the corporate form, but it unjustly, and at times cruelly, impinges upon the autonomy and the consciences of those who have been legitimately entrusted with the spiritual and temporal affairs of our local churches and ministries.
4) Finally, it is my hope that the request for substantive consolidation creates a path by which we, as the people of this Archdiocese, can finally put this scandal and its fallout behind us. Despite what you may have been told by the Archdiocese or its representatives, the separate incorporation of the parishes is being called into question, meaning the only real way for parishes to get out from under the sexual abuse claims that they are facing is to participate in the bankruptcy process. I know that as a matter of justice, many parishes would gladly contribute the little that they are able to a settlement agreement, but are being prevented from doing so because a few parishes want to avoid having to add their considerable assets to the settlement pot. One might ask if such actions should be understood as mistaking right or wrong for what is good or bad for the institution, and if so doing is not an abdication of our collective responsibility to promote reconciliation and make reparation.
You can find my affidavit here.
According to an article in the Herald Tribune
, Father Robert Kapoun, removed from active ministry in 2002 because of a history of sexually abusing minors, was allowed by the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis to purchase a home across the street from a Catholic Church in Palmetto, Florida, that very same year. Moreover, he has been permitted to reside there despite having been incorporated into the 'monitoring program' developed by the Archdiocese.
For the complete story, see http://www.heraldtribune.com/article/20160508/article/160509675
Below is a redacted copy of the letter sent by Archbishop Nienstedt to the victim/survivor featured in today's Fox 9 news story:
That is the message the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis is trying to communicate in advance of an avalanche of lawsuits about to be filed against parishes. As was mentioned here in an earlier post
, in the absence of a mediated agreement regarding the resolution of victims' claims, attorneys representing victims of sexual abuse by clergy have been planning to file lawsuits against individual parishes as a means of preserving their clients' claims prior to the May 2016 deadline established by the Minnesota Child Victims Act.
The Archdiocese is anticipating that the suits against parishes will be filed in the next two to six weeks, and so it has begun to prepare pastors and parish staff to respond. Parishioners of impacted parishes can expect to receive letters from Archbishop Hebda and others this weekend, and parish staff have been given 'talking points' for responding to calls from angry or worried parishioners. Parishes that are sued have been advised to consult an attorney, meaning that significant costs could accrue to parishes as a result of the lawsuits.
Significantly, MPR reported yesterday that the Archdiocese told a federal bankruptcy judge that it hopes to file a reorganization plan by the end of May, but that would be after the deadline. Moreover, attorneys for victims made it clear that the Archdiocese has not shared the proposed plan with nor secured the support of the unsecured creditors committee, which represents victims of sexual abuse.
Had a reorganization plan been agreed to, it is unlikely that victims' attorneys would be planning to file lawsuits against the parishes.
Archbishop Hebda, in what appears to be an empty Cathedral of Saint Paul.
In announcements sent out early this morning, temporary administrator Bernard Hebda informed the priests and faithful of the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis that he has been given the job of Archbishop permanently. The decision of the Holy Father was made while the Archdiocese continues its meanderings through bankruptcy, while the Archdiocese is battling criminal charges against it as a corporation, and in the wake of several concerning decisions by Hebda including his failure to prevent Archbishop Nienstedt from assuming a ministerial position at a parish in Michigan, the delayed removal of a priest under investigation for possible possession of child pornography, his decision to return Reverend Paul Moudry to ministry, and his being caught off guard when criminal charges were filed against the Franciscans.
Here is Archbishop Hebda's statement to priests:
Please pray for me as I prepare to begin my service as the next Archbishop of Saint Paul and Minneapolis. I am humbled by the Holy Father’s confidence in me and pray that I will be able to be a shepherd who imitates the One who “came to serve rather than to be served,” as we will remember at this evening’s Mass of the Lord’s Supper. I particularly hope and pray that I as bishop will be able to be the “father, brother and friend” that Saint John Paul envisioned in Pastores Gregis
I am aware that there is still much work to be done to overcome the daunting challenges before us but I find great hope in the Sacred Triduum that we begin this day, which reminds us that we have a God who can bring Easter victory even out of the ignominy of the cross. As our Archdiocese patron, St. Paul, wrote to the Philippians, we can truly do all things through Christ who gives us strength.
I find great comfort as well in knowing that there are already so many extraordinary laborers in this vineyard. It will be an honor to serve with Bishop Andrew Cozzens and with you. In the course of these past nine months, I have already been privileged to witness your deep faith and commitment to Christ’s Church, His people, and the Eucharist. I find that inspiring.
As I prepare to begin this new ministry, I will be counting more than ever on your prayers and support. I pledge my best efforts in return and promise as well my prayers for you. May the Lord of the Harvest bring fruit to our common labors.
Fraternally in Christ,
The Most Reverend Bernard A. Hebda
Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis
The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis sent out the following announcements today.