Posted at: 09/03/2013 10:22 PM
Updated at: 09/04/2013 7:11 AM
By: Ryan Luby, KOB Eyewitness News 4
A long-time pastor in the Gallup Diocese said the organization cannot afford to address 20 claims of clergy sex abuse on its own, some of which date to the 1950s.
Father Timothy Farrell, a pastor of a Farmington church, told KOB Eyewitness News 4 that the diocese is – or certainly is among – the poorest in the United States.
"We operate the Diocese on a wing and a prayer, because there's not really any money, and, so yeah, this is devastating," Farrell said.
He said a large percentage of the parishioners worship in small missions – in trailers or in log cabins – not in big churches.
"The poverty rate is awful. The unemployment is astronomical. The education out here is just nonexistent for some people," Farrell said.
Bishop James Wall informed pastors and parishioners of the bankruptcy plans through a letter. It was read aloud in churches over Labor Day weekend.
In part, the letter states:
"Since becoming the Bishop of Gallup, I have worked to seek ways to bring healing to those who were harmed by sexual abuse. Unfortunately, since becoming Bishop, the number of claims has continued to increase. These claims relate to events that occurred decades ago. While some of the claims relate to times when the Diocese had some insurance, many relate to times when the Diocese does not appear to have had insurance or the insurance is limited and not likely to cover the damages for which the Diocese might be found liable."
Father Farrell said the diocese will file for bankruptcy in a few weeks. Once it does, he said he does not expect any parishes or missions to close.
Robert Pastor, an attorney representing 13 of the 20 abuse claims, told the Gallup Independent that he was surprised by the bankruptcy filings.
"Chapter 11 bankruptcy was designed to help companies restructure debt," Pastor told the newspaper. "Bankruptcy was never intended to be a tool to help Catholic Bishops hide other perpetrators or the knowledge it had about pedophile priests working in the diocese."
Pastor did not immediately return a call made by KOB Eyewitness News 4 Tuesday evening.