By Daniel Payne
San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone on Friday revealed that it was “very likely” that the archdiocese would be filing for bankruptcy in the near future due to the hundreds of clerical abuse lawsuits that have been filed against it.
The prelate revealed the news in an announcement on the archdiocesan website Aug. 4 in which he noted that, following a 2019 California law that lifted the statute of limitations on certain sexual abuse claims, the archdiocese was ultimately served with “more than 500 civil lawsuits” related to clerical sexual abuse.
The “vast majority of the alleged abuse occurred in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s and involved priests who are deceased or no longer in ministry,” Cordileone noted, while others involved “unnamed individuals or named individuals who are unknown to the archdiocese.” The archdiocese has been “investigating the best options for managing and resolving these cases,” Cordileone said.
“After much contemplation and prayer, I wish to inform you that a Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization is very likely,” Cordileone said.
The Chapter 11 filing, the prelate said, would “[allow] the archdiocese to deal with the hundreds of cases collectively rather than one at a time,” leading to what he said would be a “faster resolution for hundreds of survivors” resulting in “fair compensation and finally, hopefully, some peace and closure.”
Only the overarching “legal entity” of the archdiocese would be affected by a Chapter 11 filing, Cordileone noted; parishes and schools would be unaffected by the move.
Should the archdiocese proceed with the Chapter 11 filing, it will become one of numerous U.S. dioceses that have recently resorted to the legal and financial maneuver in order to address voluminous abuse claims within their jurisdictions.
CNA reported last month that “more than two dozen” dioceses have filed for bankruptcy in the United States, the “vast majority” of them in the last decade. Among those include the bishoprics of Tucson, Arizona; Davenport, Iowa; Portland, Oregon; Wilmington, Delaware; and New Orleans.
Behind San Francisco, the Diocese of Ogdensburg, New York is the latest in the U.S. to have entered bankruptcy proceedings, having done so while facing nearly 150 abuse lawsuits going back decades. The Diocese of Syracuse, New York, which filed for bankruptcy in 2020, announced last month a settlement with survivors of abusein which it will pay $100 million to a victims’ trust fund.
Cordileone on Friday said he was “deeply saddened by the sinful acts and the damage caused to the lives of innocent children” abused by Church leaders.
Following “a stringent screening process and [enhanced] awareness and education for children and adults, the occurrences of abuse within the Church are very rare,” the archbishop said.