A new mediator started work this week to seek resolution in the Archdiocese of Santa Fe’s bankruptcy case filed three years ago to compensate victims of clergy sexual abuse.
U.S. Bankruptcy Judge David Thuma approved the hiring of Paul J. Van Osselaer, a mediator from Texas who will be paid $700 an hour. He is the third to take the role in the case. The judge’s order said Van Osselaer would be paid by the archdiocese and its insurers.
Thuma filed an order this week saying the mediator would meet with six insurance companies Tuesday through Thursday.
More than 400 victims of clergy sexual abuse await a settlement in the Chapter 11 bankruptcy case that was filed in December 2018. The archdiocese has raised money for a potential settlement through property sales, a property auction and donations, but insurance companies’ payouts are expected to be vital.
The Rev. Glennon Jones, vicar general for the archdiocese, said in the fall his institution was negotiating with the insurers, “but there’s no way to speed it up.” No target amount has been divulged for a potential settlement.
Thuma said a second mediator, Alan Malott, wasn’t being released from duty but didn’t have to participate in the meetings this week. Malott replaced the first mediator, Leo S. Papas, in April 2020.
Van Osselaer was among the mediators involved in the USA Gymnastics bankruptcy case in which a doctor, Larry Nassar, was accused of sexually abusing hundreds of female gymnasts. That case was settled last month for $380 million.
The order says participants in the mediation meetings should file confidential statements that may include assertions of fact, issues, positions in the matter, copies of documents, an assessment of bargaining strengths and weaknesses, and suggestions for how to settle the case.
Aaron Boland, a Santa Fe attorney who represents one victim, said Thursday he wasn’t in the meetings, but he assumed they were negotiating “a number and a process” to bring this to an end.
Boland said mediation hasn’t gotten the job done before in this case. “You also want to be positive, and maybe this is the one,” he said of Van Osselaer. “I think the judge wants them to get going.”