SPOKANE, Wash. - Bishop Blase Cupich explained in a letter to parishioners of the Catholic Diocese of Spokane why he's suing the lawyers who represented the diocese in the priest sex abuse bankruptcy and settlement and why parishioners won't be hearing much about it as the lawsuit presses forward.
The malpractice lawsuit was filed last week and seeks more than $12 million from the Spokane law firm Paine Hamblen Coffin Brooke and Miller.
The Diocese said in court documents that its bankruptcy lawyers, Greg Arpin and Shaun Cross, failed to explore other means of ending the abuse scandal. It also blames the lawyers for writing a bankruptcy plan that failed to adequately fund the risk of new claims.
The Diocese declared bankruptcy in 2004 and eventually settled with 180 people who claimed they were sexually abused by Catholic clergy. The settlement cost the Diocese and insurers $50 million.
Jane Brown, managing partner for Paine Hamblen, denied the lawyers did anything wrong when KREM 2 News spoke with her in response to the lawsuit after it was filed.
The following letter dated October 13, 2012 from Bishop Cupich was included this weekend in the church bulletin that goes home with parishioners after they attend Mass.
By now you may have seen reports that the Diocese of Spokane has attempted to resolve, on a confidential, mediation basis, issues related to the way the diocese was placed into bankruptcy and the manner in which future claims provision were handled. Unfortunately, our overtures with the law firm representing the diocese during and after the bankruptcy were rejected.
While we will not be making any further comment on the issues raised in the malpractice action we were forced to file this past week, I would like you to know three things by way of background.
First, many of our concerns expressed in our filing with the court came to my attention during the recent 18 month mediation period, which ended in successfully resolving the pending future claims against the diocese and the related threats of foreclosure facing a significant number of our parishes and schools.
Second, when these concerns were brought to my attention, I took the time and consulted with experts locally and nationally to determine the most prudent course of action.
Third, I also reviewed these concerns and the advice I received from these experts with leaders in our diocese, both lay men and women and clergy. My preference has always been to resolved these issues quietly and through mediation, so as to avoid further unnecessary publicity for the Church. Yet, when faced with the rejection of our offer to enter into mediation to resolve these serious issues, I could not ignore an important and compelling point impressed upon me by my advisors, namely that I have a fiduciary responsibility to you, the people of the diocese, for the sacrifices and support you have been called on to make over these past few years.
You have extended to me your trust and support since my arrival and especially as I dealt with the future claim and foreclosure issues and I do not take either lightly. I now ask your patience once again, and that you join me in the hope that these concerns can be resolved through mediation and negotiation, a process that has served us so well in this last year and a half.
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Rev. Blase J. Cupich
Bishop of Spokane