Court sets March 1 deadline for priests’ sexual abuse allegations

Non-abuse claimants, such as suppliers who do business with the archdiocese, must file a claim by November 30, 2020.

NEW ORLEANS — A federal bankruptcy judge has set a March 1, 2021 deadline for victims of Catholic clergy sexual abuse to file a compensation claim with the Archdiocese of New Orleans.

The deadline, known as the “deadline,” comes 10 months after the archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on May 1. A deadline is a standard part of any bankruptcy, but setting it has been controversial and controversial.

Federal bankruptcy judge Meredith Grabill ended a marathon five-hour court hearing by conference call on Thursday, setting a March 1 deadline, saying she decided to rule on the archbishop. The borough’s deadline of Jan. 29 to March 31 to “split the baby.” creditors, respectively.

Non-abuse claimants, such as suppliers who do business with the archdiocese, must file a claim by November 30, 2020.

The church and its creditors argued angrily for months. The archdiocese has said it is interested in paying all legal claims, but creditors claim the church cannot be trusted. The Archdiocese of New Orleans has a lot of money and filed for bankruptcy in “bad faith” to prevent further evidence of abuse from appearing in court, they said.

The archdiocese moved about three dozen sexual abuse cases from state to federal court, so it will stop before bankruptcy. That means Archbishop Greg Ammond does not have to testify under oath in the testimony scheduled for later in May.

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Since then, WWL-TV’s “Losing Faith” investigation has highlighted allegations against clergymen who were excluded from Ammond’s list of more than 60 credible accused clergymen. Last month, Ammond added the name of a pastor, Brian Highfill, to WWL-TV and its partners on The Times-Picayune. The New Orleans Advocate asked about the church’s formal complaint, which it initially said was not on Highfill’s file.

That’s why lawyers for known abuse victims believe the church should be asked to do more than is usually required in order for debtors to reach potential claimants who haven’t come forward. Several abuse victims who spoke to WWL-TV did not come forward until they saw the abuser’s name on a list Ammond released in November 2018.

Abuse claims surged after other parishes set bar dates in bankruptcy cases. Both sides in the New Orleans case spent hours Thursday on how much the archdiocese must do to promote the bar date and encourage new victims to come forward.

Grabir, for example, ordered the church to include the creditor’s web address in its announcement, giving potential victims the opportunity to see a broader list of accused clergymen than the archdiocese admits on its official list. But the judge did not grant a request from creditors for the archdiocese to find addresses and mail notices to alumni of some 200,000 Catholic schools working for paedophile priests. She also dismissed a lawyer’s argument that a court date should not have been set at all during the coronavirus pandemic.

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The archdiocese said it plans to advertise the bar date in 27 Louisiana newspapers, national journals and the web.

An expert hired by the creditors said TV and radio ads had greater reach and were more cost-effective for the archdiocese.

Grabill has yet to rule on the clergy abuse claimant’s request to completely dismiss the church bankruptcy case.

Kevin Bourgeois, an abuse victim and director of the New Orleans chapter of SNAP, a network of survivors for those abused by pastors, was disappointed that Grabill did not provide more time to bar future claims. He called on the bankruptcy judge to compel Amund to release the secret archives of priests kept by the archbishop under canon law.

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