The Diocese of Gallup intends to petition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization in response to a growing number of lawsuits filed by alleged victims of clerical sex abuse.
Leaders of the diocese described bankruptcy as a way of assuring justice and fairness for victims of sexual abuse by providing for an orderly distribution of the diocese’s limited resources.
Diocese of Gallup Bishop James Wall said in a letter read to parishioners over the Labor Day weekend that bankruptcy is intended to treat abuse victims “in a just, equitable and more merciful manner” while allowing the diocese to continue its pastoral mission.
But representatives for victims of clergy sex abuse described the move as a tactic that will allow Wall and others diocesan officials to sidestep testimony that could lead to additional claims.
“I think the primary, or immediate, objective of the diocese is to prevent Bishop Wall from having to be deposed and put under oath,” said Robert Pastor, a Phoenix attorney who has filed lawsuits on behalf of 13 alleged victims.
“The bankruptcy proceeding will stay, or put on hold, any other cases that are pending” until a bankruptcy judge decides which cases can proceed, Pastor said.