Tentative Bar Date for Claims in Archdiocese of New Orleans Bankruptcy Proceedings

by Kristi S. Schubert

The Archdiocese of New Orleans has filed a request asking that U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Meredith Grabill establish September 29, 2020 as the deadline by which every individual who has ever been sexually abused at the hands of an Archdiocese employee must file their claim.

This deadline, referred to as a” Bar Date,” includes abuse survivors who have never told a single soul, including their own families, about the abuse they suffered. The average victim of childhood sexual abuse takes 24 years to finally reveal their secret.

In previously filed Catholic Dioceses bankruptcies, abuse claimants have been given as much as six months or even up to a full year to file their claims. Here, abuse survivors would have less than three months. If abuse survivors do not meet this deadline, the Archdiocese has asked Judge Grabill to rule that they be “forever barred” from bringing their claim against the Archdiocese, and that the Archdiocese be “forever discharged” of their responsibility for those claims.

In some previously filed Catholic Dioceses bankruptcies, the bankruptcy estate set aside a special fund of money to compensate abuse survivors who had not yet come forward, but may decide to do so in the future. Here, the Archdiocese requests that such abuse victims receive nothing because they did not file their claim prior to the Bar Date.

The Archdiocese requests that this harsh rule apply to any abuse survivor whose claim “arose before May 1, 2020.” Based on a plain reading of this language, if a 7 year old child was molested on April 29th, 2020, the child would have less three months from today to tell her parents about the molestation so that they can bring a claim on her behalf. Otherwise, the child will forever lose her right to receive compensation from the church.

The abuse survivors who have not yet reported their abuse are expected to learn about the Bar Date from the media. The Archdiocese proposes to publish notification of the Bar Date in just 8 local Louisiana publications. No effort appears to have been made to publish the notification in communities where large numbers individuals displaced by Hurricane Katrina still live today, such as Houston or Atlanta. When the local papers do publish the notification, there is no guarantee that it won’t get buried amongst the current backdrop of more explosive headlines covering the coronavirus crisis, protests, and an upcoming presidential election.

The Archdiocese’s vicar of finance, Patrick Carr, previously testified at a hearing that the Archdiocese is currently solvent, meaning they do have the money to pay all their known debts. This led some to question why the Archdiocese filed for bankruptcy while they have the money to pay debts. In their new filing, the Archdiocese points out their need to ensure that once they emerge from bankruptcy they “will be free from the threat of additional claims being brought.”

Prior to filing the Bar Date motion, the Archdiocese sought the Creditors’ Committee’s comments on the Bar Date request. The Creditor’s Committee refused to provide comments, and announced that it intends to file a motion to dismiss the Archdiocese’s bankruptcy case altogether.

See Ramon Antonio Vargas’ article in The Advocate, “Archdiocese Seeks Deadline for Claims, for more information.

If you or someone you know has a claim against the Archdiocese of New Orleans for abuse suffered at any time in the past and you have not filed a claim, please contact us for a confidential meeting to discuss your claim and your right to compensation.

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