San Francisco Archdiocese files for bankruptcy as it faces more than 500 sexual abuse lawsuits

St. Mary's Cathedral in San Francisco is part of the Archdiocese that filed for bankruptcy.
St. Mary’s Cathedral in San Francisco is part of the Archdiocese that filed for bankruptcy.

The Archdiocese of San Francisco has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as it faces more than 500 lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse.

“The unfortunate reality is that the Archdiocese has neither the financial means nor the practical ability to litigate all of these abuse claims individually, and therefore, after much consideration, concluded that the bankruptcy process was the best solution for providing fair and equitable compensation to the innocent survivors who have been harmed,” Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said in a Monday news release.

Parishes, schools, cemeteries and related organizations and ministries are not included in the filing, according to the release.

“We seriously doubt that the Archdiocese of San Francisco does not have the assets to settle these lawsuits,” the Survivors Network of Abuse by Priests said in a statement. “We find it disturbing that Archbishop Cordileone claimed this is the ‘best way’ for victims’ lawsuits to be resolved.”

The archdiocese cites a California law that suspended the statute of limitations for sexual abuse between January 2020 and December 2022, opening a three-year window where victims had until age 40 or five years from the time their abuse was discovered to file civil actions against their alleged abusers.

“The overwhelming majority of the more than 500 claims stem from allegations of sexual abuse that occurred 30 or more years ago involving priests who are no longer active in ministry or are deceased,” the archdiocese said.

The San Francisco filing comes after the Catholic Diocese of Oakland similarly filed for bankruptcy protection in May after it received more than 330 claims of sexual abuse.

The Catholic Church as a whole has faced intense criticism over its response to multiple reports detailing decades of sexual abuse, systemic failures and cover-ups across multiple countries.

Pope Francis said the church has “zero tolerance” for abuse, in an interview last year with CNN’s partner channel CNN Portugal. The Pontiff said he is “responsible that it doesn’t happen anymore,” and noted that “a priest cannot remain a priest if he is an abuser.”

The San Francisco Archdiocese said the Chapter 11 filing “allows each claim to be evaluated on its merits, provides transparency into the proceedings and into (the archdiocese’s) finances, and gives claimants a voice in the outcome.”

The archdiocese will develop a reorganization plan “that is based on assets and insurance coverage available to be used to settle claims with abuse survivors,” its release said.

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“Although the survivors’ group is certain that the Archdiocese is morally bankrupt, it does not believe that it is as financially strapped as it claims,” the abuse survivors’ network said.

“This bankruptcy will have many advantages for Archbishop Cordileone. For those who suffered from child sex crimes committed in the Archdiocese, there is no upside to this cruel and, in our opinion, unjustified legal tactic. SNAP believes that children, not secrets and assets, are what need to be protected,” the statement added.

The San Francisco Archdiocese serves more than 440,000 Catholics across the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo and Marin, according to its website.

Source: CNN