Copyright © 2018 Albuquerque Journal
As Catholics around the world welcome the beginning of Advent, parishioners in the Santa Fe Archdiocese are also dealing with the recent news of the archdiocese’s intent to declare Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Santa Fe Archbishop John Wester announced the decision Thursday, and the subject was a focus of Masses in Albuquerque and Santa Fe this weekend.
“The first thing we’re being vigilant for is the care of those who were victimized,” said the Rev. Andrew Pavlak during his homily at San Felipe de Neri’s Saturday evening Mass, following a reading from the Gospel of Luke that emphasizes vigilance against sin.
Pavlak warned that the reorganization may cause changes in the coming months.
“There may be some things that we need to tighten our belts on,” he said.
Pavlak encouraged parishioners to ask him any questions they may have about the reorganization and to pick up copies of Wester’s statement on the bankruptcy in the back of the Old Town Plaza church.
San Felipe de Neri parishioner Stephen Archuleta said he found Pavlak’s message heartening.
“I think the Church is trying to do the right thing by positioning itself to take care of those who were impacted,” he said. “It actually made me feel pretty good that they’re looking at it like that.”
His father, Billy Archuleta, who was baptized at San Felipe in 1942, said he thought the decision to file for bankruptcy was a prudent one.
“They’re not doing it to get out of paying people,” he said. “They’re just doing it to put aside the money before someone says, ‘I’m going to sue you for all the money.’ ”
After Mass at Santa Fe’s Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi on Saturday evening, parishioner and former board member of the now-defunct St. Francis Cathedral School, Annie Coogan, said she has seen church money funneled into payments for victims of abuse for years.
“We’re well familiar with our money going toward that,” Coogan said. “We would like our church to be transparent about where all the money is going.”
In his statements Thursday, Wester said he is hopeful financial transparency will be improved through the reorganization process.
The archdiocese has paid out millions to victims of sexual abuse by priests for about two decades.
While it will not save the archdiocese money, declaring bankruptcy will ensure funds are available for current and future claims, Wester said.
In Santa Fe, the Rev. Christopher Hallada acknowledged during his homily the challenges the abuse scandal and bankruptcy have posed to parishioners’ faith.
“It’s hard when there’s so much uncertainty in our church to trust in God,” Hallada said. “… But that’s what we’re called to do this evening.”