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NEW YORK – Less than three months after the Archdiocese of Santa Fe reached an agreement in its yearslong Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, Archbishop John Wester has published an open letter to sexual abuse claimants saying that he is “ashamed” of what happened to them.
“With this open letter, I wish to express my profound regret and sorrow over the tragic and inexcusable harm done to you by clergy sexual abuse,” Wester said. “As Archbishop of Santa Fe, I apologize to each of you and to all those who have been harmed by sexual abuse perpetrated by Roman Catholic Clergy in this archdiocese.”
Wester added that the archdiocese “takes full responsibility for the abuse.”
“I am ashamed of what happened to you and even more so that it happened within the auspices of the Catholic Church,” the archbishop said. “There are no words that can convey how sorry I am and how committed this archdiocese is to keep children and young people safe.”
The Archdiocese of Santa Fe filed for bankruptcy on December 3, 2018, facing nearly 400 claims of clergy sex abuse that date back to the 1940s. After a four-year process – that Wester has described as “arduous yet fruitful,” the archdiocese and claimants reached an agreement in the bankruptcy proceedings on December 29, 2022, that totaled $121.5 million.
Under the agreement, the archdiocese will put $75 million toward the total settlement fund, with insurance companies agreeing to pay the remaining $46.5 million. There was also a recommendation for the archdiocese to set up a $2.5 million fund to pay future claims.
In a hearing on December 28, 2022, archdiocese attorney Thomas Walker told the judge that of 376 survivor claimants who voted on the plan, only four rejected it.
Details of the vote and settlement were first reported by the Albuquerque Journal.
In the recent letter to sexual abuse claimants, Wester also highlights that none of them should feel like they are to blame for the abuse they suffered.
“Sadly, it is not unusual for those victimized by clergy sexual abuse to carry guilt for the abuse they received. This guilt is often encouraged by the perpetrator and is entirely unfounded,” Wester said. “You were completely innocent and did nothing to deserve, encourage or sustain the hideous crime of sexual abuse of a minor.”
The archbishop added that he hopes the conclusion of the Chapter 11 process brings them some measure of justice.
“I pray that this moment will be yet another step in the healing process and that you will find the peace and well-being that is your God-given right,” Wester said.
Follow John Lavenburg on Twitter: @johnlavenburg