Vlog: Jeff Anderson Discusses New AP Article on Financial Chicanery in the Catholic Church

My name is Jeff Anderson. I am the founder of Jeff Anderson & Associates. For over 38 years, we have been working with and advocating for survivors of sexual abuse. We have been on a quest with survivors to seek truth, to seek accountability, and in the final analysis, to protect kids from future harm. I’d like to comment today on a story posted by the associated press. It’s entitled “Sitting on billions, Catholic dioceses amassed taxpayer aid.” The story really underscores several things that I think deserve more light. It spotlights not just that the Catholic bishops across this country in each of the dioceses received massive amounts of taxpayer aid, but at the same time,  that they were claiming to be under severe financial distress. It deserves some comment. The reality is that when this journey first started the Catholic dioceses and the bishops denied that they had legal responsibility or that they had covered up sexual abuse of children.

As of the early 2000s, it’s been well-established through the crucible of the court and the courage of the survivors, showing that that has been a practice and a standard practice; past and, to some extent, present.  What is less known are these sophisticated efforts that the Catholic bishops have deployed to avoid accountability; some of those efforts are spotlighted in this associated press story. Effort number one: shield assets under the control of the bishops by transfers to other entities under the bishop’s control. That is the strategy that has been employed across this country and revealed to us repeatedly over the years. And in doing this, what the Catholic bishops have done is taken assets under their control and put those assets, be it cash, be they investments, and otherwise, and placed them in other entities under their control. And those other entities are parishes and foundations created by the bishops and in real estate held by them under different titles. First, concerning parishes, it has widely been revealed to us and through litigation that  Catholic dioceses have sought protection from creditors and survivors’ claims through the use of Chapter 11 and reorganization.  In 2004, the Catholic Diocese of San Diego, after the statute of limitations had opened in California, sought protection from the survivors and their claims, and made a filing before the bankruptcy court disclosing their assets. The bankruptcy court at that time scrutinized that disclosure and raised serious questions about them underreporting the true value of their assets. The Diocese of San Diego withdrew that filing and that reorganization and settled those claims. And since that time, Catholic dioceses and the bishops have become very sophisticated in their strategic plan to shield their assets. Most recently, in a filing in the Diocese of Camden, [the bishop] reported in their Chapter 11 filings that they had approximately $25 million in assets. Scrutiny of those filings, however, reveals to us and professionals that there is up to $217 million now being held in parishes under the bishop’s control, in foundations under the bishop’s control, and in real estate under the bishop’s control. And that filing is emblematic of others that have gone before. That brings us to New York and the dioceses of New York. In the state of New York, there are now four dioceses that have filed for Chapter 11 or reorganization, claiming that they are unable to stand and pay and be accountable fully for the claims that have now been allowed to be brought under the Child Victims Act in New York, an act which they lobbied against vigorously for years, spending millions of dollars to fight.

They lost that fight.

The Catholic bishops, all eight of them, in the state of New York have transferred and shielded assets by moving them into parishes, by moving them into foundations and by moving them into real estate and investments not held in their title, but under their control. Most recently, and notably, the Diocese of Rockville center filed for reorganization. There are massive amounts of holdings and real estate on Long Island and in that diocese not even disclosed in their filings, which we believe can be shown to be under the control of the bishop. The other three dioceses in the state of New York that now claim they cannot withstand and be held accountable for the harm that they did to so many, have now filed for reorganization: that is Syracuse, Buffalo, and Rochester. In each instance, we believe the Catholic bishops have moved their assets and shielded them from those creditors and other claims that have been brought under the Child Victims Act. It deserves mentioning that scrutiny of the financials of the Catholic bishops in New York alone reveals that Fidelis Care was held by all eight of the Catholic bishops, and they ultimately transferred the funds of that entity into a foundation called the Mother Cabrini Foundation. This foundation now holds over $3 billion.

They have underreported their ability to pay across the board. They have misled folks into believing that they were under financial stresses when they weren’t. They have failed to tell the truth and the whole truth about their patterns and their practices in protecting offenders. And now they have avoided having to reveal the truth of their true ability to pay so that they won’t be held accountable the way they should be and the way they could be if the truth is known and fully revealed. It is time for the truth to be revealed, and the Associated Press story reveals a lot of that. And there’s so much more yet to be revealed. So we, armed with the courage of so many survivors, are on a quest to have the truth known, to have those responsible held accountable and revealed, and to have the Catholic Bishops who have refused to be held accountable and to reveal the truth as it needs to be told, once and for all. And to all the survivors who have joined in this effort for truth, accountability, and transparency, we are grateful.