NewsSex Abuse

California dioceses react to tide of lawsuits

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SAN DIEGO — The Diocese of Santa Rosa filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on March 13, following its announcement late last year that bankruptcy was likely as it struggled to provide compensation to victims of sexual abuse. More than 200 claims have been filed against that diocese.

The Oakland and Sacramento dioceses have both informed their parishioners that bankruptcy may be in their futures, as well.

In a letter to parishioners on March 16, Oakland Bishop Michael C. Barber, SJ, said his diocese was evaluating the best way to compensate survivors and ensure the continuation of its work serving the faithful.

Sacramento Bishop Jaime Soto made a similar announcement on March 1.

In February, Cardinal Robert W. McElroy announced that the Diocese of San Diego was considering Chapter 11 bankruptcy after receiving about 400 lawsuits concerning the sexual abuse of minors. Two-thirds of the lawsuits stem from alleged abuse taking place between 1945 and 1975. No claim involves a priest of the diocese currently in ministry.

The cardinal stressed that a potential bankruptcy would involve only the diocese and not parishes, but that if the diocese does file for bankruptcy, a court would likely require parishes to contribute to the settlement. In that event, parishes, as a group, would have their own legal counsel to represent them, separate from the diocese.

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