(KRON) — The Diocese of Oakland is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy due to child sex abuse claims, it announced Monday in a press release. The diocese says it faces more than 330 lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse.
According to the release, Catholic schools in operation under the Oakland Diocese are part of separate legal entities and are not included in the bankruptcy filing. Employees and vendors will also be paid as usual with employee benefits continuing uninterrupted, the release continues.
“After careful consideration of the various alternatives for providing just compensation to innocent people who were harmed, we believe this process is the best way to ensure a fair and equitable outcome for survivors,” said Bishop Michael C. Barber. “It will also allow RCBO to stabilize its finances and continue the sacred mission entrusted to us by Christ and the Church. Given our current financial resources, RCBO could not shoulder the burden of litigating 330 cases filed under the recent California Assembly Bill 218.”
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California Assembly Bill 218 took effect on January 1, 2020, and extends the time period that sex abuse claims can be filed in the state. The Oakland Diocese says that most of the claims stem from allegations of abuse “that occurred in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s by priests who are no longer active in ministry and/or deceased.”
But Dan McNevin with SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, doesn’t see this as fair or equitable. He says this is a common tactic by bishops across the country to cover up how the church handles abuse allegations.
“It usually is about preventing access to files and to secrets and embarrassing facts around how the abuse was enabled by bishops and chancellors and vicar generals,” said McNevin.
McNevin, an abuse survivor himself, also takes issue with the diocese claim it doesn’t have the money to cover all the lawsuits.
“We did a study of Oakland in 2004. We found over a billion dollars real estate with no debt,” he said. “And since then, the markets tripled. So, there are a $3 or $4 billion corporation. They have a $200 million cathedral that they built the year after they settled in the last set of cases. They’re a very wealthy place.”
SNAP is hoping a bankruptcy judge will reject the Chapter 11 filing and they’ll ask federal and state lawmakers to investigate whether this bankruptcy tactic is an effort to skirt the law.
The Oakland Diocese joins the Santa Rosa Catholic Diocese as the second Bay Area diocese to file for bankruptcy over sexual abuse claims this year.