Catholic Diocese of Spokane, Washington



The Bishop Writes

"Our Consensual Plan of Reorganization has been approved"


by Bishop William S. Skylstad

(From the May 3, 2007 edition of the Inland Register)

All of you are aware by now that the Federal judge, Patricia Williams, on April 24 approved the consensual plan leading the Catholic Diocese of Spokane out of bankruptcy.†I would like to share with my press statement released on that day. The statement summarizes my own thoughts and our common resolve to continue to move ahead in the diocese with healing, rebuilding, hope, and financially supporting the settlement.†I well recognize that not everyone agrees with the action we have taken in the diocese, but after much consultation at several levels we have reached this point on this painful journey.

Godís grace is always at work when we bear the cross, and certainly no less so in this case.†I suspect all of us, in one way or another, in the course of our spiritual journey have searched more deeply into our†hearts to discover what all of this means.†I certainly have.†We are a Church redeemed, and a Church constantly being redeemed.†Sealed with the gift of the Holy Spirit, God continues to form and mold us individually and as a community of faith.

The following is the press statement.

*****

One of the most difficult decisions I have had to make in my nearly 30 years as a bishop was the decision to file for Chapter 11 Reorganization. It was a decision I made after wide consultation with clergy and with laity, with professionals in the law and professionals in business. After all of that consultation, after asking for opinions, weighing advice, and considering as many viable alternatives as I could, ultimately, the decision to file was mine and mine alone.

The Catholic Diocese of Spokane filed for Chapter 11 Reorganization because the church was about to be overwhelmed by the financial liabilities resulting from sexual abuse. It became clear to me then, and it remains clear to me now, that the only way the Church could deal fairly with all claimants was through the legal processes of Chapter 11 Reorganization. As we did so, we faced the reality of continuing the mission and ministry of the Church in Eastern Washington.

The Churchís ministry is complex. We have deep historical and pastoral roots throughout this region. We baptize, and teach. We preach the Gospel, and we do our very best to live the values of the Gospel as we heal the sick, bury the dead, and comfort those in pain. That Gospel value of comforting those who suffer means that we have reached out to the victims of sexual abuse. We have encouraged them to come forward. We have provided opportunities where, we hope and we pray, healing might possibly begin for everyone.

The victims of sexual abuse have been grievously harmed. The damage has been profound. I take this opportunity to again express my sorrow. Individuals used their positions of authority and trust to damage the least among us. It was shameful, and it was wrong. On behalf of the Church in Eastern Washington, and on my own behalf, I apologize for the wrongs that were done, and I ask forgiveness.

Our Consensual Plan of Reorganization received a unanimous vote of approval by the abuse survivors, by parishes, by the trade creditors. Today, I announce that Judge Patricia Williams has approved our Consensual Plan of Reorganization, including financial settlements and payments, especially to the victims and survivors of abuse.

Although this day has been long in the making, this is not a day of rejoicing. When I think of what brought us to this point, I can only pray in hope that never again will a childís trust be betrayed by an individual representing the love of Christ. I pray in hope that this settlement will provide an impetus for healing, for all victims who have so bravely presented their stories and participated in this process. I can only pray in hope that this moment marks a beginning of healing for the Catholic Church in Eastern Washington, and for the entire community of Eastern Washington. I pray in hope that what we have learned can be of benefit to other churches, to other organizations, to anyone entrusted with the care and well-being of Godís precious children.

The decision to file for Chapter 11 was reached through extensive consultation with many qualified individuals. I thank them for their honesty, their dedication, their generosity. The Chapter 11 process itself was accomplished only through the very difficult work of other dedicated individuals, including our attorneys, and individuals who serve the diocese so selflessly and graciously. I am particularly indebted to Father Steve Dublinski and to Deacon Mike Miller. Father Dublinski is the Vicar General of the diocese, and has been irreplaceable in his focus, determination, and dedication to the victims and to the Church. Deacon Miller is head of the dioceseís Office of Business Affairs, and brought to his ministry decades of experience in corporate finance. Father Mike Savelesky worked long, hard hours as priest co-chair of the Association of Parishes. That organizationís assistance was vital to the success of our approved Plan of Reorganization. These men did what they did, not for personal gain, but for love of the Church and deep compassion and concern for the victims of abuse. I am forever in their debt.

Please continue to pray for all of us in the Church in Eastern Washington. Todayís decision by Judge Williams marks the end of a tragic chapter in our history. I pray that it also marks the beginning of a new chapter, a chapter filled with hope, with promise, and renewed dedication to living the true spirit of the Gospel.

(Editorís note: For more information, see pages 13-17 of this issue.)


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