February 25, 2024

The Archdiocese of Santa Fe in New Mexico said that it had reached a $121.5 million settlement agreement to resolve a bankruptcy case that stemmed from clergy sex abuse claims, one of the largest such settlements involving the Catholic Church in the United States.

The proposed settlement would be used to compensate survivors of sexual abuse, the Archdiocese of Santa Fe said in a statement on Tuesday.

The settlement affects approximately 375 claimants, Dan Fasy, a lawyer who represents 111 of the victims, said on Wednesday.

The agreement was among the larger settlements that an American Catholic diocese or archdiocese has reached after decades of sex abuse claims. The settlement also comes a month after the Diocese of Camden, N.J., said that it had agreed to pay $87.5 million to settle claims made by hundreds of people who had accused clergy members of sexually abusing them.

In New Mexico, about 74 priests have been described as “credibly accused” of sexually assaulting children, while the priests were posted to parishes and schools by the Archdiocese of Santa Fe, according to The Associated Press.

The Santa Fe archbishop, John C. Wester, said in 2018 that the diocese would be filing for bankruptcy protection to settle child sex abuse claims. The archdiocese is one of about 30 dioceses and Catholic orders in the United States to file for bankruptcy, according to BishopAccountability.org, which tracks abuse cases against the church.

The settlement, which must be approved by the abuse victims, will be funded by the archdiocese, the parishes within the archdiocese, other Catholic entities and the archdiocese’s insurance carriers, according to the archdiocese. Established in the 1850s after the Mexican American War, the Santa Fe archdiocese includes 93 parish seats and 226 active missions.

“The Church takes very seriously its responsibility to see the survivors of sexual abuse are justly compensated for the suffering they have endured,” Archbishop Wester said in the statement. “It is our hope that this settlement is the next step in the healing process of those who have been harmed.”

The archdiocese said the settlement money would be used exclusively to compensate victims and would not be used to cover the archdiocese’s legal costs or other expenses related to the bankruptcy case.

“I am happy to see there is some sense of closure for the survivors,” Mr. Fasy, the lawyer for many of the victims, said in a phone interview on Wednesday. “There is no amount of money that can take away the pain and trauma that the survivors have endured, but I am glad that they now have an opportunity to begin considering whether the settlement makes sense.”

As part of the settlement agreement, the archdiocese also pledged to create an archive of information to document the abuse and said that it would host prayer services and meetings with survivors.

The archdiocese is contributing $75 million to the settlement, with the rest of the settlement money coming from contributions from five different insurers, Mr. Fasy said.

The archdiocese said that it hoped the settlement would “help to bring healing to survivors of sexual abuse and the larger community.”

In the statement, Archbishop Wester said it was his “sincere hope that all parties will see the wisdom of the settlement and help bring the bankruptcy case to a conclusion for the good of the survivors of sexual abuse, the good of the Church, and Catholics throughout the archdiocese.”

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