The Roman Catholic Diocese of Gallup, NM., plans to petition for bankruptcy this month, after claims of clergy child sexual abuse and costs of litigation rise.
Gallup Diocese is ranked the poorest diocese in the United States. If it goes forward with its plans, it will become the ninth diocese in America to file for bankruptcy since 2004, according to ABC News. Multiple Native American reservations are in the Gallup diocese.
A statement read at the church over the weekend read that filing for bankruptcy “is the most effective and thoughtful course to take in light of the claims from those who were abused,” according to NBC News.
The U.S. Catholic Church has lost about $3 billion in litigation surrounding sex abuse scandals since 1992.
Gallup Bishop James Wall said that he thinks filing for bankruptcy is the best course of action for the diocese.
“I firmly believe that the process of Chapter 11 is the best and only way that will allow us to work constructively with all those who suffered from sexual abuse,” Wall stated. “Those who have been abused deserve the church's respect, compassion and love.”
But Robert Pastor, an Arizona attorney who represents plaintiffs in 13 sex abuse cases against clergy, said he thinks filing for bankruptcy would interfere with the progression of the litigation cases.
“The bishop has done what we see all the other bishops do — they run to bankruptcy perhaps seeking financial protection but more importantly protection from the discovery process,” Pastor said.
Pastor added that he had not been notified by the diocese about their plans. He said he thinks the diocese is misusing their ability to file for bankruptcy.
“Chapter 11 bankruptcy was designed to help companies restructure debt,” Pastor added. “Bankruptcy was never intended to be a tool to help Catholic bishops hide other perpetrators or the knowledge it had about pedophile priests working in the diocese.”