Several Roman Catholic dioceses in California have filed for bankruptcy or are considering the option as the churches face over 3,000 lawsuits related to childhood sexual abuse cases.
The influx of cases comes after a California state law opened a three-year in Dow to allow alleged victims to sue up to the age of 40. The window for the group officially closed in December, Religion News Service reports.
The Diocese of Santa Rosa filed for bankruptcy recently after it faced more than 200 lawsuits. The church says it has between $10 million and $50 million in assets.
A second diocese filed for bankruptcy in early May. The Diocese of Oakland is facing about 330 sexual abuse lawsuits and says it has about $100 million to $500 million in assets.
Oakland Bishop Michael C. Barber said that “worship sites” will close, and the diocese will have to “re-imagine” how other locations are used.
“I ask for your commitment to work with me and our pastors in the upcoming months as we determine how best to address the outcome of the bankruptcy process and how to ‘right-size’ our parishes to serve the faithful and all who come to us seeking Christ’s tender love,” Barber said.
The Diocese of San Diego is also considering bankruptcy after facing what Cardinal Robert McElroy called “staggering” legal costs in the wake of some 400 lawsuits.
In many of the suits, the alleged abuse happened 50 to 75 years ago.
Bishop Jaime Soto has said bankruptcy could be an option for the Diocese of Sacramento as it faces more than 200 lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse.
“To learn of this staggering number of claims is truly heartbreaking,” Bishop Jaime Soto said. “These claims represent real people whose lives have been damaged by the sins of individuals whom they had been taught to trust.
“Given the number of claims that have been presented … resolving them may overwhelm the diocese’s finances available to satisfy such claims,” he wrote. “This financial challenge is unlike anything we have faced before.”
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Amanda Casanova is a writer living in Dallas, Texas. She has covered news for ChristianHeadlines.com since 2014. She has also contributed to The Houston Chronicle, U.S. News and World Report and IBelieve.com. She blogs at The Migraine Runner.