The buried bankruptcy lede in Da Paper is the motivations of plaintiff/creditor attorneys. Featured photo is of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, courtesy Infrogmation.
Corner stone of Sacred Heart Catholic Church, 3200 Canal Street. Infrogmation photo.
Buried Bankruptcy Lede
Da Paper did a page one (print) story on the real estate sales the Archdiocese of New Orleans submitted to bankruptcy court. The article (online but paywalled) lists seven properties the Archdiocese wants to sell and have been approved by the court. The article’s headline, describing these properties as “vast” is hyperbolic nonsense. While movement on the bankruptcy is indeed news, these sales aren’t the important part of the story. The buried bankruptcy lede is the issue of new plaintiffs and increasing attorney profits.
What’s for sale
St. Jude Community Center, 400 N. Rampart Street.
The big-ticket items here are the St Jude Community Center and Sacred Heart Church on Canal Street. the Community Center, located at 400 N. Rampart Street, is the “parish building” for Our Lady of Guadalupe Church. It currently functions as a social services hub and food pantry for the neighborhood. Operations there are affiliated with Second Harvest, the regional food bank owned by Catholic Charities.
The other big item here is Sacred Heart Catholic Church on Canal Street. The parish was founded in 1879. The first church stood at 3200 Canal until 1924. The parish built the current church next to the original. When it was completed, they demolished the original church. The parish built the current school building in its place.
The Archdiocese sold the school building years ago. The school, Sacred Heart High (not to be confused with Sacred Heart Academy on St. Charles Avenue) re-organized as Seton Academy in the 1980s. That school merged with Redeemer High School in Gentilly. The merged school, Redeemer-Seton High School, continued in Gentilly until Katrina. The archdiocese sold the school building. It is now the “3222 Canal Apartments.”
Impact of these sales
While these properties will boost the coffers of the Archdiocese, there are bills to be paid. The bankruptcy is in its third year now. The archdiocese retains outside counsel and an outside accounting firm to oversee the myriad of legal activities and financial reports required for reorganization. A significant amount of the proceeds from these real estate sales will go to paying the lawyers and accountants.
The attorneys for clergy sex abuse victims know this. It’s problematic for them, because they’re working on contingency. Chapter 11 proceedings rolled up all the lawsuits against the archdiocese into the overall action. So, the victims are just creditors now. They hold the same status as the water service and coffee service companies that had outstanding invoices at the time of the filing.
Expanding the victim base
That’s the buried bankruptcy lede. Riegel mentions it in passing in the article. The plaintiff attorneys, seeking new clients and new fee potential, want the court to allow new lawsuits against the archdiocese. want the court to allow new lawsuits, based on a 2021 law passed by the state legislature. That law permits claims from years, even decades ago. The law is a part of a current trend to bring sexual assaulters to justice. A related New York State law enabled E. Jean Carroll to take action against Donald Trump.
The crux of the current argument is, should the federal court recognize new claims based on the state law. Bankruptcy cases usually “ban” new lawsuits during the reorganization phase.The theory is, creditors want to see the entity re-organize, so they can recoup some of what they’re owed.
That’s not the case here. There are two groups at odds with the archdiocese who don’t want it to re-organize. The victims share the assets as of the bankruptcy. It’s not clear how much cash the court requires for this. Since the lawyers work on contingency, their share of these settlements won’t be what they desire.
More plaintiffs expand the payout pool. The lawyers receive the same percentages, but on a higher total amount.
Plaintiff lawyers nurture outrage reporting. They’re loving the coverage of Fr. Lawrence Hecker, the 90-something-year-old priest who admits to raping kids. The lawyers leverage the publicity to draw out victims who haven’t spoken up prior to now. So, more victims means more plaintiffs means higher fees. This case has no doubt been a serious financial drain on the lawyers. This became evident when a plaintiff lawyer leaked sealed documents relating to the archdiocese’s finances to the press, which earned him a half-million-dollar fine.
Or maybe not. The other group of people involved here are folks who want to burn the Catholic Church to the ground. I mean, their anger and pain is certainly understandable. The problem here is that bankruptcy law doesn’t know how to handle this grief. In most cases, creditors either want a re-organization, or they want the assets transferred to an entity that will turn things around.
Burning it down
There’s no transferring the church to another entity. It’s not like the Episcopalians or Methodists can just absorb Catholic parishes. The “burn it down” faction wants to put the archdiocese totally out of business. They desire perpetual proceedings here. The more money the archdiocese spends on lawyers and accountants, the more they have to close churches and schools to raise funds. This faction wants to see it all razed.
At some point, however, the burn-it-down group hits the lawyers head-on. While the archdiocese does have assets to sell, the lawyers need settlements. Look for more leaks from these folks as their sense of urgency grows.
Bringing it to an end
The judge wants this case closed. Being party to the destruction of the Catholic church in a city as Catholic as New Orleans is bad politics. It’s also bad business. If the bankruptcy judge allows further asset liquidation, it won’t be open-ended.
Iran background reading includes The Shia Revival by Vali Nasr
The Shia Revival by Vali Nasr
Iran background reading
Remember when The Daily Show with Jon Stewart was the go-to for folks looking to keep up with current events? Thirteen years later, the dynamics have changed. While the sources expanded, the process of learning about interesting nonfiction has not.
I watched Stewart interview scholar Vali Nasr in 2006. Nasr appeared on the show as part of his book tour for The Shia Revival, his book about Shia Islam, Iran, and Iraq. It was fascinating! I learned a lot about Shia Islam, and even more about how Persians think.
Nasr’s stories of how Iranians think kept my interest. Since 1979, way too many Americans view Iran as some evil monolith. That’s changed over the years. The Iran-Iraq war killed so many on both sides. Watching in horror from the US wasn’t a spectator sport, it was a nightmare. Both countries reeled from that war for a decade. Still, there was no real need for Iran background reading.
I didn’t think much about Iran in the 80s-90s. That changed, post 9/11, when the focus on radical Islamists grew. In the early aughts, we heard and read more about Iraq, naturally. As we did, the differences between Sunni and Shia Islam entered our discourse. Nasr’s book offered excellent Iran background reading. The author opened a door into the monolith.
That bit of Iran background reading sparked ideas in my head. When I wrote a story about dragon eggs, the notion of an “ancient Persian trading concern” popped into the thought stream. I discovered that legends hidden cities in the desert extend to Iran. I learned, like on so many other subjects, monoliths are not black-and-white. There’s the government, there’s culture and religion, and there are the people who walk the tightrope through these.
Keep up with Vali Nasr
I plan to re-read The Shia Revival next week. Additionally, I followed Nasr on Twitter. So, while following him, I also added a couple of people recommended by Da Twittah who connect to him. Check him out. I’ll share some excerpts from the book in your new Zuckerd00d group, YatPundit’s Pub.
Mychal Judge – Gay Saint?
FDNY memorial to department chaplain Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM (courtesy Commons user BrillLyle)
Is Mychal Judge a “Gay Saint”?
It’s called a “cause” when Catholics put a person forward for canonization. The “cause” of Fr. Mychal Judge, OFM, moves forward to Pope Francis. While the Church maintains that it’s difficult to become a saint, Pope Francis expanded the paths to sainthood. This profile of Judge, by Ruth Graham in Slate.com, explains how the Franciscan friar and 9/11 hero is now eligible for this designation.
Prior to Pope Francis, there were two paths to sainthood. One was Martyrdom. A martyr is one who gives their life for their faith. The second was “Confessor,” the more complicated path. These are the causes with all the rules and regulations. A “confessor” becomes a saint when “miracles” happen based on this person’s intercession with God. So, the “confessor” path is a difficult one.
This July, Pope Francis created a new path to sainthood. As Graham explains it:
But in July, the Vatican announced that it had expanded its criteria for sainthood, creating a new category for people who willingly sacrifice their lives for others: oblatio vitae, the “offering of life.” This new category of saints does not need to have been killed directly because of their faith, and they need display only “ordinary” virtue. As Mathew Schmalz, a religious studies professor at the College of the Holy Cross in Massachusetts, put it, “Now saints can be persons who lead a fairly ordinary life until an extraordinary moment of supreme self-sacrifice.” It’s a category that seemed custom-built for Judge.
While the Vatican will no doubt admit that this category exists for Judge, it really does seem this way. Of course, there are a number of other folks who fit these criteria. It’s important to remember, to canonize someone means the Church declares, this person is in heaven with God. That’s a bold claim, coming from mortals. Naturally, they want to be as certain as they possibly can. Catholics and other students of the process of canonization will find this all interesting.
Judge offered his life
The article is a splendid profile of a complex man. Judge did indeed offer his life, particularly in service to AIDS victims in New York. Like those who worked with lepers in earlier times, Judge embraces those dying of AIDS-related conditions, offering comfort and spiritual support. Judge was a gay man, and had a long-term relationship with a nurse who also lived in Manhattan, Al Alvarado. Judge, his friends, and those championing his cause, maintain that he remained true to his priestly vow of celibacy. Like many straight priests who have intimate relationships with women, they see no problem with Judge’s relationship with Alvarado.
Fr. Judge is a man Catholics can easily look up to. And pray to.
That sounds like a #clickbait headline, but it’s not. Both houses of the NC State Legislature have voted to override a veto by Gov. Pat McRory of NC SB2. The bill allows magistrates (county officials who issue marriage licenses) to refuse applicants because they have sincerely held religious beliefs that prevent them from issuing the license.
Now, at face value, that sounds like every other attempt to stop gay marriage we’ve seen over the last twelve months or so, but it’s so much more insidious. Imagine this scenario:
A Catholic couple comes up to a county magistrate’s office with an application for a marriage license.
COUPLE: We’d like a marriage license, please.
MAGISTRATE: Well, now, OK! What religion are you folks?
COUPLE: Roman Catholic
MAGISTRATE: Hmmm…do you believe that man can be saved by his faith in Jesus Christ alone?
COUPLE: No, we believe man can be saved because of his good works, as well as his faith.
MAGISTRATE: I’m sorry, my sincerely held religious believes prevent me from issuing this license.
And, boom! the couple’s dreams of married bliss go up on smoke. Now, the county and state will argue that it’s just one magistrate who is objecting, and that the couple can go find another who doesn’t hold these same sincerely held beliefs. Will that dodge be enough for the five conservative Supremes, who also happen to be Catholic?