Saturday, January 8, 2011

The alternative to episcopal testimonial endoscopy

Archdiocese assets to be put under microscope in Bankruptcy Court, reports today's Milwaukee Journal Sentinel. Annysa Johnson included how various assets claimed not subject to creditors' claims were treated in other diocesan bankruptcies.
Trust structures were contested in Portland, Spokane and Wilmington. In Wilmington, the court ruled that millions of dollars in an investment trust held by the diocese for parishes, schools, cemeteries and other organizations would become part of the estate because they had been commingled with diocesan funds and couldn't be traced to their original sources - a decision that is now affecting pensions for lay employees.
Presumably that result was taken into account by our Archdiocese of Milwaukee, for example in the Faith In Our Future Trust. There is the added reassurance some may find in having Bishop Sklba as one of the five trustees.

Another item of interest is Archdiocesan real estate holdings.
In San Diego, where the bankruptcy filing was dismissed after an outside agreement with victims was reached, creditors had accused the diocese of significantly undervaluing its holdings. News coverage at the time of the bankruptcy's dismissal put the assessed value of church properties there at more than $400 million, saying it included single family homes, vacant residential and commercial lots, multiuse buildings and condominiums.

Lawyers for that diocese said Friday that diocesan ownership of the properties was never established at trial.

But U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Louise DeCarl Adler was troubled enough to rebuke the diocese at the close of the bankruptcy, calling it "disingenuous" and saying it had enough assets to settle its claims without ever going to bankruptcy.
"Disingenuous" seems almost mild compared to choosing bankruptcy when the alternative is defending against claims of misrepresentation. On the amount of property, you might recall that Paul Marcoux's abuse claim against Archbishop Weakland was settled with $450,000 from our Archdiocese's "real estate and property fund". As I recall, payment from that fund had a bit of a change-under-the-sofa-cushions air in Weakland's memoirs.

Will bankruptcy put the abuse claims behind our Archdiocese financially? Not necessarily.
In Portland, for example, the court set an April 2005 deadline for most claims. But it left the door open for more than 20 years for certain claimants: minors, and those with repressed memories who didn't recall the abuse in time or didn't connect it to their injuries, such as addictions or emotional problems, according to the Portland archdiocese.
That is, funds might have to be set aside from which claims will be paid well after Archbishop Listecki is retired.

Finally, "bankruptcy proceedings rarely result in ... depositions like the one Milwaukee victims wanted of retired Bishop Richard Sklba... ."

P.S. The bankruptcy was filed on Archbishop Listecki's first anniversary as Archbishop. If the bankruptcy itself concludes some time next year, a twenty year claim fund would run to 2032. It could conclude on Archbishop Weakland's 55th anniversary, or even his 105th birthday.


  1. ”…or even his 105th birthday.”

    In the hilarious BBC TV series “Yes, Prime Minister” Sir Humphrey Appleby, the conniving Cabinet Secretary, is expounding on bishops in the Church of England.

    Referring to the lack of openings for episcopal appointments (proposed by the PM and confirmed by the Queen) he notes that Anglican bishops tend to have long lives, concluding:

    “…apparently the Lord isn’t all that keen for them to join Him…”

  2. In the present case, perhaps the Lord would be giving him time for a second volume of memoirs.