parishioners who saw the Spokane, Wash., diocese fall
into bankruptcy because of sex abuse cases against their
clergymen now are being asked to help pay molestation
victims and bail out the diocese.
telling them the focus here is on the children who were hurt
and doing what we can to bring them some sort of
compensation, some sort of healing,'' said the
Reverend Edgar Borchardt, pastor of Sacred Heart
Catholic Church in the college and farm town of Pullman,
about 80 miles south of Spokane.
A Chapter 11
bankruptcy reorganization plan approved last month commits
the diocese to pay $48 million--including $10 million
from 82 parishes--to settle as many as 177 old
claims of sexual abuse. That $10 million is roughly
what the diocese's 95,000 parishioners normally put in the
collection plate in a year.
Home to Bishop
William Skylstad, president of the U.S. Conference of
Catholic Bishops, the diocese is the smallest and poorest of
five nationwide that have sought bankruptcy protection
against clergy sex abuse lawsuits. Skylstad is himself
raising an additional $6 million toward the bankruptcy
settlement, and Catholic agencies, such as cemeteries,
children's homes, and charities, are being asked to
contribute another $6.5 million. Insurance settlements will
pay the rest.
Over the next few
weeks, parish priests will sell the settlement to the
people in the pews, said Bob Hailey, a Spokane lawyer and
executive in a grassroots capital campaign to help
parishes raise their share.
How that pitch is
made is up to individual priests in each parish, Hailey
church began its campaign early, in February. The
congregation's 350 families already have raised about 80% of
the $250,000 assessment the parish is expected to
contribute in cash and pledges, he said.
are angry at Skylstad for taking the diocese into
bankruptcy, while others balk at paying bankruptcy lawyer
fees. Still others question why they should pay for
priests who molested children decades ago in other
parishes, Borchardt said. The pastor has evoked the
parable of the good Samaritan, who stopped to help a man who
had been beaten and robbed when others looked the
Samaritan was not at all responsible for the problem, but he
was the one who took care of the problem,'' Borchardt said.
''We try to keep the focus on the healing of those who
survived the abuse and healing of the people in the
pews. This has been fairly traumatic for people in the
The Reverend Mike
Savelesky, cochairman of the Association of Parishes, a
group of pastors and laity formed to protect the assets of
individual parishes, told his parishioners their
church's future may rest on the success of the
pastor of Assumption of the Blessed Virgin, a large church
and one of four Spokane-area parishes being used as
collateral to secure loans for the diocese.
It is also the
former home of former priest Patrick O'Donnell, who
admitted to molesting dozens of young boys. Skylstad shared
a parish residence in the early 1970s with O'Donnell.
accused Skylstad of covering up knowledge of O'Donnell's
misdeeds, charges the bishop has denied.
Savelesky and his
fellow priests must persuade their parishioners that
the settlement amounts they must raise are not punitive but
are the right thing to do for people who were abused
does not heal, in our nation's legal system, victims of
abuse have a right to just compensation,'' Savelesky wrote
If $47 million of
the $48 million is not turned over to a bankruptcy
trustee by December 31, parishes will be required to take
out loans to make up the shortfall.
''What I'm hoping
is, people realize this is not a campaign we can afford
to fail,'' Hailey said. ''We will rely on all parishioners
to share a part of the burden.''
feels that's fair.
bankruptcy confirmation hearing April 24, Leo Driscoll, a
retired Spokane lawyer who attends Sacred Heart Church in
south Spokane, opposed confidentiality wording in the
settlement. He said it won't allow parishioners to
audit claims that could be false or to learn more about
priests who may have molested children.
month rejected a call to resign by four prominent Catholics
who vowed they would not contribute ''one dime'' because the
settlement was not subject to a vote of parishioners.
reorganization plan confirmed by U.S. bankruptcy judge
Patricia Williams will pay victims from $15,000 to
$1.5 million each, depending on the severity of the
molestation or rape. A former U.S. attorney will hear
claims and decide how much each person receives.
diocese, which serves Catholics in 13 eastern Washington
counties, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in
dioceses which have filed for bankruptcy protection include
San Diego; Tucson; Davenport, Iowa; and Portland, Ore.
Tucson has emerged from bankruptcy protection, while
Portland's reorganization plan also has been approved.
Paul McNabb, a
member of St. Charles Borromeo Catholic Church in
northwest Spokane since 1960, said he will contribute to the
''I see it as a
compassionate way of helping out, of justly compensating
the victims of abuse and also helping the diocese to
continue with its operations,'' McNabb said. (AP)