When James Wall became bishop of the New Mexico diocese of Gallup in 2009, he knew there were unresolved issues regarding clerical sex abuse, but never dreamed it would lead to bankruptcy court, reports CNS/NCR.
At Masses throughout the diocese last weekend, parishioners were read a letter from Wall that said in the face of insurmountable lawsuits, the diocese intends to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Bp Wall set no date for the court filing in his letter. He could not be reached for comment.
Seven other US dioceses have filed for bankruptcy protection in the aftermath of sexual abuse lawsuits.
'While some of the claims relate to times when the diocese had some insurance, many relate to times when the diocese does not appear to have had insurance or the insurance is limited and not likely to cover the damages for which the diocese might be found liable,' Wall wrote. 'Given the financial circumstances of the diocese, I have come to the conclusion that the only fair, equitable and merciful way to balance these obligations is by filing a Chapter 11 reorganisation.'
Merritt Selleck, a parishioner at St John Vianney Church in Gallup, told Catholic News Service he was disappointed by the announcement but said it might be the right step to take.
'I don't think the bishop had much of choice given the number of lawsuits the diocese is facing,' Selleck said. The diocese of Gallup in northwestern New Mexico is the poorest diocese in the United States, said Fr Tim Farrell, diocesan spokesman.