San Francisco Archdiocese declares bankruptcy amidst sexual abuse scandals

04:35 22.08.2023

The Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in response to over 500 lawsuits accusing the Church of enabling child sexual abuse. The bankruptcy filing, made in a San Francisco court, will allow the diocese to halt the lawsuits temporarily while it develops a plan to hold settlement talks. Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone stated that the bankruptcy process was the best solution for providing fair and equitable compensation to the survivors of abuse, as the diocese lacks the financial means and practical ability to litigate each claim individually.

The majority of the 500 sex abuse claims date back 30 years or more and involve priests who are no longer active in the ministry or who are deceased. The 88 parishes and schools within the diocese will continue to operate as usual, as they are independently managed and self-financed and were not included in the court filing. The lawsuits were made possible by a 2019 California law that allowed individuals to bring claims for childhood sexual abuse that would have otherwise been prohibited due to the statute of limitations.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) criticized the archdiocese, calling it "morally corrupt" and questioning its claims of financial strain. SNAP expressed doubts that the diocese does not have the assets to settle the lawsuits and called for a closer examination of the archdiocese's real estate holdings, which are spread across three of the wealthiest counties in the United States. SNAP also noted that the San Francisco archdiocese has not released the names of abusers, despite requests from survivors.

In May, the Catholic Diocese of Oakland filed for bankruptcy amid 330 sex abuse lawsuits to stabilize its finances. The decision to file for bankruptcy was made in an effort to handle the growing number of claims and to provide compensation to survivors. The diocese's bankruptcy filing followed similar actions taken by other dioceses in California and across the United States.

Rev. Cordileone, the Catholic archbishop of San Francisco, stated in a letter that the bankruptcy filing was necessary due to the large number of civil lawsuits filed against the archdiocese under state law AB-218. This law allowed individuals to bring claims for childhood sexual abuse that would have otherwise been barred due to the expiration of the statute of limitations. Cordileone assured that the bankruptcy filing would only cover the legal entity of the archdiocese and that the operations of its parishes, schools, and other entities would not be affected.

The archdiocese had previously settled claims under a 2002 state law, selling excess property and relying on insurance to pay approximately $68 million to about 100 plaintiffs. Cordileone emphasized his commitment to the healing and care of survivors and asked for prayers for the archdiocese, parish communities, schools, and all survivors of sexual abuse.

Jeff Anderson of Jeff Anderson and Associates, a lawyer representing alleged victims of childhood sexual abuse within the Church, criticized Cordileone's decision to file for bankruptcy, calling it dangerous and suggesting that the archbishop's priority is secrecy and self-protection.

The Archdiocese of San Francisco now joins the list of dioceses in California and across the United States that have sought protection under bankruptcy laws, including the dioceses of Oakland and Santa Rosa earlier this year.

/ Tuesday, August 22, 2023, 4:35 AM /

themes:  San Francisco  California

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