The Archbishop of Santa Fe in an open letter apologized to victims of clergy sexual abuse and said he hopes the close of a Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceeding brings the victims some measure of justice.
Archbishop John Wester’s letter comes as the archdiocese and victims of clergy abuse are working to resolve a long-running legal case over sexual abuse. Late last year, child sex abuse survivors overwhelmingly approved a $121.5 million plan to try to bring the case to a close.
“The Archdiocese takes responsibility for the abuse,” he said. “I am ashamed of what happened to you and even more so that it happened within the auspices of the Catholic Church.”
Wester also affirmed to the victims that none of them were to blame.
“Sadly, it is not unusual for those victimized by clergy sexual abuse to carry guilt for the abuse they received,” he said. “This guilt is often encouraged by the perpetrator and is entirely unfounded.
“You were completely innocent.”
The reorganization plan is the result of years of legal maneuvering that involved three mediators and effectively ended more than three dozen civil lawsuits in state court that alleged abuse of children by clergy in the archdiocese and negligence by church hierarchy.
The settlement is one of the largest of its kind involving the Catholic Church in the United States.
Allegations against priests in New Mexico cover a period from the 1940s to the 2010s. More than 80 priests have been credibly accused of sexual assault, and the archdiocese was shown in court records to have transferred priests from one parish to another once accusations of abuse surfaced.
“I pray that this moment will be yet another step in the healing process and that you will find the peace and well-being that is your God-given right,” Wester said.
Neither archdiocese officials nor an attorney who represents survivors of clergy sexual assault could immediately be reached for comment Tuesday.