Louisiana’s new law offers survivors of sexual abuse hope for healing and justice
Louisiana Governor Bel Edwards last month enacted House Bill 492 abolishing the statute of limitations for any survivor of abuse under the age of 28. People over 28 will have a three-year “look back” to reconcile their existing cases.
Representative Jason Hughes (D-New Orleans) sponsored the bill, which garnered broad support from victims and their advocates, especially those who have been abused by Catholic leaders and trusted clergy. in churches and dioceses of Louisiana.
“Bill 492 will never heal the pain of the victims; However, it gives them a chance for justice and hopefully some sense of closure, ”Hughes said in a statement following the session. “This bill will send a powerful message to all vicious predators that child sexual abuse is wrong and will not be tolerated or condoned in Louisiana. “
The new law will come into force on August 1, 2021 and will undoubtedly have an impact on the Catholic Dioceses of the State-Lafayette, Baton Rouge, Houma-Thibodaux, Alexandria, Lake Charles and Shreveport. The only area of the state that won’t feel the impact of the new law will be the territory over which the Archdiocese of New Orleans presides because the Archdiocese filed for federal bankruptcy protection in the year. last.
There are over 400 claims awaiting judgment in bankruptcy court. The process itself has been criticized by some who believe the Archdiocese has not been transparent about its finances. Big Easy Magazine claims the Archdiocese is in fact creditworthy and has sought bankruptcy protection for nefarious reasons. Here is an excerpt from an article they published,
“Through statements and documents, the Archdiocese cited “financial struggles” over the increase in claims as the main reason it filed for bankruptcy. However, it has been revealed that the church is in fact creditworthy, which means that it is able to pay all of its legal debts. It is very rare, although not illegal, for a creditworthy organization to go bankrupt.
The Archdiocese has confirmed it has hundreds of millions of dollars in assets and liabilities. These assets include an endowment of $ 306 million as well as $ 77 million of land and buildings. Liabilities, meanwhile, are $ 38 million in obligations, $ 500,000 in employee health claims and $ 8.5 million set aside for abuse claims.
In a letter to the Vatican, sent two days before the Archdiocese filed for bankruptcy, it was discovered that Archbishop Aymond had revealed that the church was solvent and financially more than capable of handling the claims. He wrote: “The Archdiocese is not insolvent. We have enough cash, cash equivalents and investments to cover 100% of our debt. »Responsibilities include abuse claims.
In the letter, Aymond estimated that the cost of settling abuse claims to the Archdiocese, in addition to the insurance proceeds, would be $ 7 million. This number is telling because it is $ 1.5 million less than the $ 8.5 million the church has set aside for claims. In other words, the church can easily afford to settle these claims, and in doing so, it would be falling under its budget.. “
The six Louisiana dioceses that did not seek bankruptcy protection will now have a future of survivors who come forward to tell their stories of horrific sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests who betrayed them.