And at first, it seemed like that might happen.
More than 450 clergy abuse victims filed claims by a March 2021 deadline.
In June 2022, a committee of abuse survivors was about to sit down with archdiocese officials, including Archbishop Aymond, to begin mediation in hopes of negotiating a settlement. But two hours before that first meeting, U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Meredith Grabill stopped it and announced that most of the survivors, including Adams, would be removed from the committee because their attorney, Richard Trahant, had disclosed confidential information from the case.
It later came out in court records that Trahant had tipped off his cousin, the principal of Brother Martin High School, that the school’s chaplain, the Rev. Paul Hart, had admitted in church files to having had sexual contact with a 16-year-old girl. The Times-Picayune reported the Archdiocese hadn’t considered Hart’s actions to be child sexual abuse because church law at the time still considered 16-year-olds adults.
That conflicted with state law at the time and the church law was later changed, after the Boston Globe “Spotlight” investigation in 2002 exposed rampant abuse and coverups in the Boston Archdiocese and started a nationwide reckoning for the church.
Grabill ruled Trahant violated the bankruptcy court’s secrecy order. She fined Trahant $400,000 to cover the legal expenses of the leak investigation. He’s now appealing that ruling.
Meanwhile, Trahant’s clients and hundreds of other claimants are still waiting for their money. One is Aaron Hebert, who claims the Rev. Lawrence Hecker molested him in 1968, when Hebert was 13. Hecker is still alive, and Hebert says he has a childhood friend who claims he was raped by Hecker. That case may still be ripe for criminal prosecution, but Mintz and Wegmann have fought to keep the church’s internal files on Hecker sealed.
“The church, with the amount that they’re paying (in legal fees), they’re not financially bankrupt; they’re morally bankrupt,” Hebert said.
But McDonald said the archdiocese and its attorneys are trying to get the bankruptcy case resolved as quickly as possible. Jones Walker has had to work with two different creditors’ committees to produce hundreds of thousands of pages of records, she said.
“The length of time and cost of these proceedings are shocking and very disappointing to us,” she said. “We have had several mediation sessions and are working proactively towards bringing the bankruptcy to conclusion.”
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