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Bishop: Diocese of Sacramento to seek bankruptcy protection after over 250 lawsuits claim sexual abuse

Diocese of Sacramento to declare bankruptcy after hundreds of lawsuits over alleged sexual abuse
Diocese of Sacramento to declare bankruptcy after hundreds of lawsuits over alleged sexual abuse 03:00

SACRAMENTO - The Diocese of Sacramento will seek Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection after more than 250 lawsuits claiming sexual abuse by clergy and other staff, Bishop Jaime Soto said on Saturday.

Soto said the diocese intends to seek Chapter 11 protection by March 2024.

"There are many victim-survivors awaiting compensation for the reprehensible sins committed against them," Soto said in a statement to his parishioners. "The diocese faces more than 250 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by clergy or other church staff. The reorganization process will allow me to equitably respond to the large number of those who are victim-survivors of abuse."

Under Chapter 11 protection, a court would oversee how available assets would be distributed to fulfill claims against the diocese. Victim-survivors would be represented in a court-supervised proceeding, the diocese said.

In a statement, the group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) criticized the bankruptcy move. 

"It is simply not true that bankruptcy is the only way to achieve a 'fair consideration' of all of the survivor's lawsuits. In the last window, universal agreements were reached between the Church, survivors, and their attorneys, without the draconian consequences that bankruptcy will bring along with it. What is also true is that victim's settlements are normally reduced in bankruptcy," SNAP wrote. 

A fund would be created to distribute to all victims, the diocese said.

"Without such a process, it is likely that diocesan funds would be exhausted by the first cases to proceed to trial, leaving nothing for the many other victim-survivors still waiting for compensation," the diocese said in a statement.

Soto announced in March that filing for bankruptcy was a possibility.

"It is the sickening sin of sexual abuse – and the failure of church leadership to address it appropriately -- that brought us to this place. I must atone for these sins," Soto said.

From Dec. 31, 2019, to Dec. 31, 2022, the state heard suits filed that alleged sexual abuse by the Catholic church regardless of whether the statute of limitations had run out. It resulted in thousands of new cases across California.

In Sacramento alone, the Diocese sent out a letter to their congregation stating they had received over 200 filings alone, with 80% of the allegations related to claims from 1980 or earlier. Five of those claims come after 2002 when the Diocese instituted reforms and improved safeguards.

To read the statement, click here.

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