Archbishop: ArchSPM not shielding assets, accusations signal work needed to gain trust

| May 25, 2016 | 6 Comments
Archbishop Bernard Hebda speaks to media on the lawn of his residence May 24. Jessica Trygstad/The Catholic Spirit

Archbishop Bernard Hebda speaks to media on the lawn of his residence May 24. Jessica Trygstad/The Catholic Spirit

Archbishop Bernard Hebda emphasized that the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has been fully cooperative with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court and has fully disclosed its assets as part of those proceedings.

“Let me be extremely clear: The archdiocese has disclosed all of its assets and followed all of the rules set forth by the court and all directives from the judge,” Archbishop Hebda said during a press conference on the lawn of his residence May 24.

The archbishop’s remarks followed allegations from attorneys representing clergy sexual abuse victims that the archdiocese is hiding or undervaluing assets that could be made available for victim compensation as part of its bankruptcy resolution. After entering Reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in January 2015, the archdiocese has spent months in mediation with insurance carriers and victims’ attorneys. It is expected to file a plan for reorganization by May 27.

The archdiocese denies shielding funds with potential for victim remuneration.

“I know for at least the past 11 months, we have been working very hard to marshal and maximize our assets with the hope of providing the most for the most,” Archbishop Hebda said, referring to his time as apostolic administrator in the archdiocese. After holding that temporary role, Archbishop Hebda was installed the archdiocese’s archbishop May 13.

In a motion filed with the court May 23, attorney Robert Kugler, who represents sexual abuse victims in the archdiocese’s bankruptcy proceedings, argued that the archdiocese should consider Catholic parishes, schools and foundations as fund sources, despite their separate incorporation.

It alleges that in recent decades the archdiocese legally separated itself from more than $1 billion in assets through the separate incorporation of parishes and the establishment of separate entities for donors, such as the Catholic Community Foundation and the Catholic Finance Corporation, while maintaining supervision and control of the parishes and foundations, primarily through their governing boards.

The motion asks the court to consolidate the assets and liabilities of the archdiocese with those of parishes, parish schools and parish cemeteries; the Catholic Community Foundation; the French-speaking African community, the Native American community at Gichitwaa Kateri in Minneapolis, and the Latino community at Sagrado Corazon de Jesus in Minneapolis; the Catholic Finance Corporation; Catholic Cemeteries; and the high schools of Totino-Grace, DeLaSalle and Benilde-St. Margaret’s, which sit on archdiocesan-owned land.

In a May 24 press conference, Jeff Anderson, a St. Paul attorney representing 378 sexual abuse victims with claims against the archdiocese, also suggested that the archdiocese include among its assets those of the Catholic Services Appeal Foundation and Catholic Charities, for a total of $1.7 billion.

Archbishop Hebda said the archdiocese is carefully reviewing the motion and will count on the court to evaluate it.

“It sadly tells us that there is much that needs to be done to restore trust in our affirmations that we are serious about redressing wrongs,” he said.

“The bankruptcy process is complex and difficult. It can be, at times, adversarial,” he added.

He said the archdiocese plans to file a plan for Reorganization this week.

“We welcome the scrutiny of the court and all others involved,” he said. “We believe it will show our commitment to a fair, just and timely resolution of all the claims made against us, especially for those who have been hurt by people in the Church.”

He asked for continued prayers for sexual abuse victims and their families, and for a quick resolution for the bankruptcy proceedings.

May 25 marks the final day decades-old sexual abuse claims can be filed under the Minnesota Child Victims Act, which the State Legislature passed in 2013. The law lifted for three years the statute of limitations for child sexual abuse civil suits.

The lifting of the statute ushered in a wave of claims against clergy who had been or were serving in the archdiocese, leading the archdiocese to enter Reorganization as a means to distribute assets equitably and fairly among victims. By a court-established claim deadline in August 2015, more than 400 claims of clergy sexual abuse had been filed against the archdiocese.

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  • Bob Cache

    Riiiight. Of course they’ve hidden the money! You don’t think they brought in a Columbia grad finance guy for nothing do you? Yes, the cemeteries, schools, parishes all are part of the Archdiocese and yes, the Archdiocese still collects a percentage of the weekly offerings.
    Let’s cut to the chase – the Church could have fixed this long ago if it wanted to – turning in rapist priests to the police, firing bishops who covered rape up and hiding money from the victims.

  • Preacher John

    How does that prayer go again? Oh yes, “as it was in the beginning, is now and ever shall be, Priest Pedophilia without end, Amen!”

  • Danno

    When viewing the archdiocese’ reorganization plan one will notice it is missing true Christian values. Values that church leaders preach about but refuse to live by.

    Hebda, like most bishops continue to use the same mindset of self protection, secrecy and asset protection that got them into this mess to begin with.

    Assets of this Archdiocese are over a billion dollars, why are they even allowed in bankruptcy court? They choose this moral low ground to hammer down their cost for compensating hundreds whose lives were shattered by clergy rape and molestation.

    Church leaders continue in attempts to distract us with eloquent apologies proclaiming how sorry that they are. They tell us things have changed and promise complete transparency. They promise fair treatment, healing and justice for victims.

    They then immediately prove that their apologies are just hollow platitudes that show us all just how sorry that they are not.

    They hire high priced lawyers and image consultants to draft those apologies and then spend millions to fight the release of the documents that show how many sexual offenders they have protected and who they are. They show no care for your children by keeping these dangerous secrets. They preach Catholic values but refuse to use them the minute that they pass through courthouse doors. In court they will use any and every callous legal strategy and hide behind religious freedom and SOL.

    They know full well that they are causing much unnecessary pain and re injury to victims and they just do not care.

    I know this first hand because I am a Milwaukee victim who answered the call from Archbishop Listecki to come forward for healing and resolution. He said that he filed bankruptcy to fairly compensate victims. He promised to be fair and said nothing would prevent him from moving toward healing and resolution with those so horribly
    harmed……………. He then spent millions trying to throw out every single victims claim. He dragged this misery out for five years to load the pockets of is friend and lead counsel Francis LoCoco. The 2 federal judges were devout Catholics and the only local paper has a cozy relationship with the Milwaukee Archdiocese and would not cover their ruthless tactics. Only 1 priest publicly supported the victims and the
    parishioners were mostly silent.

    The victims of the Milwaukee Archdiocese have been completely abandoned and emotionally shredded.

    I cannot put in words the pain caused by the ruthless actions of the Milwaukee Archdiocese bankruptcy. I am truly a broken man. I have lost all hope for healing. The court approved therapy that will be managed by the Archdiocese using their therapists and the Archdiocese can decide when we are healed and end therapy. They have access to our therapy documents and notes. It is like going back to the bully that broke your arm to have it cast.

    Catholics of MSP please do not allow the ruthless treatment of victims to continue.

    These victims have been hurt and betrayed by the priest who molested them, by the bishops who put them in harms way, and by the churches harmful self protective response to the sexual assault of children.

    Now this archdiocese is betraying the victims again…… please do not let the archdiocese treat these victims like the Milwaukee victims. In Milwaukee parishioners sat quietly on the sidelines watching the ruthless assault on victims in a bankruptcy that was void of any Christian values.

    Please call the archdiocese and tell them to stop their assault on victims.
    Victims truly need, to be reached out to with loving concern.
    To have the truth released and to be treated with fairness and dignity.

    They have been hurt and betrayed again and again.

    This is the last opportunity available for true healing. Please do not allow Archbishop Hebda to squander it.

    • Mike Johnson

      Danno,
      You wrote a very great letter full of emotion and truth from what I see. Sorry you had to go this and still continue to do so because of the untruthful and dishonorable men who run the Catholic Church. There have been tons of hollow apologies and excuses but it’s obvious if they wanted to fix these problems, they would have long ago. Actions speak louder than words.
      Can calling the Archdiocese help? I have written letters that have gotten no response but will try calling. When it comes down to it, they don’t care like you say.
      I am not surprised lay people didn’t stand up in Milwaukee if they are like the ones here so don’t expect much. The vast majority are sheep with their heads stuck in the sand not wanting to believe it and not caring about anyone but themselves. But, they are eager to hand over money to the Church, regardless of how it’s used, with the promise of Heaven. Funny they do this without receipts and without documents to hand to St. Peter to show they’re paid up.
      The priests are worse. Few have spoke out against it or even preached one word about it in sermons, media, etc. I have heard lay people protect the “good priests” saying they are “good” because they didn’t do these crimes. Deciding to not talk out against this is still a decision and doesn’t make them “good” in my book. “Good priests” to me are honorable decent men who stand up for what’s right so their silence makes them less than a man.
      No, Hebda is not interested in healing anyone. He is an Ivy League Canon Lawyer that was put here to protect the Church. If he wants the Archdiocese to heal, then he’d be a straight shooter and pay the victims their due.
      I wish you the best and will do what I can by calling and writing the Archdiocese. I know someone who was abused by a priest and wouldn’t wish it on my worst enemy, even the dishonorable and unchristian bishops who covered it up.

      • Danno

        Your comment should be required reading for all priests and Catholics!

        Very well thought out and unfortunately the cold hard truth!

      • Anne

        “If he wants the Archdiocese to heal, then he’d be a straight shooter and pay the victims their due.”

        Please, what specifically is “their due”?

        Danno specified revealing names of those who have emotionally, spiritually and physically assaulted the victims to be released, and spoke of the pain of having the Milwaukee diocese have access to their personal therapy records and control over the time they can use therapy to bring healing, and mentioned the church here has more money they could/should give to victims. Mike, are you asking for a specific amount of money?

        I want sensitivity towards victims and healing for victims. I know a family whose daughter was assaulted and her family worked hard with her and healers to bring her to a place where that assault does not define her life.

        I also want to not see the entire church here in Minneapolis and St. Paul wiped off the face of the earth. This diocese has a horrible, hideous, Sin of failing to protect victims and protecting violators. Does that Sin blot out any of the Life in this church? Can there be healing to victims and a continuation of life after sinning?

        Is there a specific amount being sought? Is it the 1.7 B total calculation by Jeff Anderson?