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Indybay Feature
Thu May 25 2023
Oakland Catholics Declare Bankruptcy Over Abuse Lawsuits
Critics Say Bankruptcy Stiff-Arms Sexual Abuse Survivors by Limiting Their Options in Court
On May 8, the Catholic Diocese of Oakland announced that it had filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the Northern District of California, as a direct result of facing over 330 child sexual abuse lawsuits. The diocese has faced several similar lawsuits in the past and paid out tens of millions of dollars to survivors, but a new California law passed in 2019 temporarily lifted the statute of limitations on institutional abuse lawsuits, leading to hundreds of new civil suits over sexual abuse dating back to the 1960s. Bishop Michael Barber fought AB218 all the way up to the U.S. Supreme Court and lost last year. The Diocese of Santa Rosa filed for bankruptcy protection two months ago.

SNAP, a network of survivors of institutional sexual abuse and their supporters, writes: Everything about this bankruptcy strikes us as wrong. It is all about keeping money and secrets. From one coast to the other, the same ruse is being used by Catholic bishops. Minimize and cover-up child sex crimes, while keeping abusers in ministry. Then, fight against changes to the statute of limitations which would expose those crimes. Finally, when secular laws provide a window to justice, go to federal bankruptcy courts and pretend that they are out of money. The Diocese of Oakland is surely morally bankrupt, it seems to us, but they do not deserve to be declared financially bankrupt. The Diocese owns a Cathedral worth $200 million. It has hundreds of acres of land in Piedmont, Orinda, Lafayette, and Danville. Except for character and integrity, it is not poor.

pdf Bankruptcy filing for Diocese of Oakland over clergy child sexual abuse lawsuits | external SNAP statement on Oakland diocese bankruptcy

Related Feature: St. Mary's Sunday Mass Disrupted, Catholic Patriarchy Denounced
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