Lawyers representing victims of clergy abuse and those representing the Archdiocese of Santa Fe formally entered mediation last week to try and resolve the hundreds of cases brought against the clergy as part of an archdiocese bankruptcy filing completed earlier this year.
The Archdiocese of Santa Fe filed for Chapter 11 reorganization last year, claiming diminished resources due to payments already made to victims. The archdiocese reported that 395 people filed new claims against the church as of the June 17, 2019 bankruptcy filing deadline.
The mediation between the two sets of lawyers began in earnest during three days of negotiations last week, said Levi Monagle, whose firm Hall & Monagle represents many of the victims.
“Both sides put in a lot of hours,” Monagle told InsideSources. “It’s slow going, but progress was made.
“Now the two sides will go back to their respective bases and gather more information… in the interest of moving negotiations along and then reconvene sometime after the turn of the year,” Monagle said.
“More information will now be available for survivors,” but not to the general public, he said, adding that “there are confidentiality orders in place that govern the substance of the negotiations pretty tightly.”
Monagle said at the time of the bankruptcy filing that “to have nearly 400 claims in an area as sparsely as the Archdiocese of Santa Fe is a testament to the depth of the crisis here.” He also acknowledged that there were probably many more cases that had not been reported.
Religious orders indeed are continuing to be confronted with clergy abuse cases. For example, two lawsuits claiming child abuse by three Jesuit priests who once ministered at the Immaculate Conception Church in Albuquerque were filed earlier this month.
In both those cases, the alleged victims were very young, according to Monagle — whose firm is representing them — but only reported the abuses years later. One of those claiming he was abused is now 25, one of the youngest to ever report abuse, Monagle said.
“At this point, there’s… a very broad scientific consensus that there is heavily delayed disclosure with victims of child sexual abuse,” he said. “I think the average age of disclosure for male victims of child sexual abuse is around 50 years of age.”
“Victims who were abused years, decades ago are just finally starting to report for the first time,” Monagle said. “I think the Catholic Church has done a great deal of good work to protect children in its custody — for lack of a better word — or under its care, but no system is 100 percent effective.
“When we say cases continue to surface it really isn’t as simple as that. I think there are significant number of abuse victims out there — they say for every one victim that comes forward there are another six who don’t.”
Monagle also noted that “then there is the question when abuse does occur about how it’s handled,” he said.
In April, a jury found a former Roman Catholic priest who worked for the Archdiocese of Santa Fe and fled to Morocco guilty of sexually abusing an altar boy at a veterans’ cemetery and Air Force base in New Mexico in the early 1990s.
The jury reached the verdict against 81-year-old Arthur Perrault after several men testified he abused them when they were children during a trial in Santa Fe. The victim at the center of that case said Perrault had touched him inappropriately as many as 100 times starting when he was 10.
Federal authorities said he was arrested in 2017 in Tangier, Morocco, where authorities say he had been teaching at an English language school for children.