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The following is Bishop James S. Wall’s letter to all the people of the Diocese of Gallup that was read at all Masses this past weekend:
“August 29, 2013
To the Clergy, Religious, and Laity of the Diocese of Gallup,
Dear Sisters and Brothers in Christ Jesus:
First, I would like to thank all of you for your support of the Diocese of Gallup. Since becoming the Bishop of Gallup, I have worked to seek ways to bring healing to those who were harmed by sexual abuse. Unfortunately, since becoming Bishop, the number of claims has continued to increase. These claims relate to events that occurred decades ago. 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.
Since taking over as Bishop, I have tried to resolve these claims outside of litigation, unfortunately with limited success. I have also explored the alternatives available to the Diocese which would allow us to treat all of those who have been harmed by workers of the Church in a just, equitable and merciful manner while at the same time being able to continue the mission of the Diocese to bring the Good News of Jesus to all the people within the Diocese and to help those who are hurting and broken to find hope through the charitable work of the Church.
After considering all of the options and after consulting with advisors inside and outside the Diocese, I have determined that filing a petition for Chapter 11 Reorganization for the Diocese of Gallup is the most effective and thoughtful course to take in light of the claims from those who were harmed.
The filing of this petition will begin the process of financial reorganization that is provided under Chapter 11 of the federal bankruptcy code. Under Chapter 11, the Diocese will have the opportunity to present a plan of reorganization that provides for a fair and equitable way to compensate all those who suffered sexual abuse as children by workers of the Church in our Diocese – those who are currently known, those who haven’t yet made the decision to come forward, and those who might come forward in the future.
Chapter 11 will provide for an orderly process by which those who have been harmed can make a claim, and for the Diocese to propose and confirm a plan that will compensate those who were harmed while, at the same time, continue its ministry and mission now and into the future.
It is the purpose of the Bankruptcy Court to provide a neutral forum to all who seek protection or require resolution of disputes. In our present circumstances, we need that neutral forum with its protection and fair judgment so that we can justly and equitably compensate people who have been harmed.
It is very important to me that everyone understands that I have not taken this step to avoid responsibility for what happened or to hide anything. On the contrary, I firmly believe that Chapter 11 is the most merciful and equitable way for the Diocese to address its responsibility, to continue to meet its commitment to institute programs and prevent abuse, and to continue its mission to all those who depend on the outreach of the Church. I am also available if any of you would like to meet with me individually or in a group.
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. Those who have been abused deserve the Church’s respect, compassion, and love.
We fully realize our responsibility to heal the hurt of those who were harmed. We also realize our responsibility to continue the mission that we have received from Jesus Christ: to provide spiritual care, to educate children in the faith, to feed, clothe, and shelter the needy, to advocate for the least among us. We believe that continuing this mission is essential to our communities and is an expression of our very being as Roman Catholics. 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 Chapter 11 Reorganization.
As you know, the Diocese of Gallup is not the first Diocese to file, nor will it likely be the last. I hope that through this process we can meet the needs of those who have been harmed within the limited resources of the Diocese and continue to carry on the mission of the Church, which is to make the Living Christ known. I hope that all who will participate in the process can work cooperatively for an early resolution.
In the coming weeks, the process of Chapter 11 will open our Diocese to unprecedented public scrutiny. I believe that is a good thing. We will be open and transparent in this process, and I will do my best to keep you informed as the process continues. I invite you to e-mail and write me to share your reactions to this decision and the process all along the way.
Please continue to pray. Please pray for one another, and for those among us who have been harmed and are hurting.
Most importantly, let us continue to look to the One who has the power to save, Jesus Christ, Our Lord and Savior. May the Holy Spirit guide our every step, so that we might be merciful, just as our Heavenly Father is merciful.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
The Most Rev. James S. Wall
Bishop of Gallup”