SANTA ROSA, Calif. (KRON) — The Roman Catholic Bishop of the Diocese of Santa Rosa plans to file for bankruptcy, and the Diocese is citing the large number of sexual abuse lawsuits it is facing as the key reason why, according to a statement from Bishop Robert F. Vasa.

After Assembly Bill 218 lifted the statute of limitations for a three-year period, allowing victims to bring civil claims against the Diocese for sexual assault cases that occurred as early as 1962, more claims have come to light. The Diocese is now facing more than 130 sexual assault claims dating back to its establishment in 1962 until the present day.

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Bishop Vasa says that attorneys representing the Diocese plan to file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection sometime between Jan. 1 and Mar. 1, 2023.

In many ways, this is not a freely chosen decision. It is the inevitable result of an insurmountable number of claims. I am convinced, however, that choosing this path will allow us to achieve two very important goals. First, it will provide a process to carefully evaluate and compensate, as fairly as possible those who have come forward with allegations of sexual abuse. Chapter 11 is a process designed to bring all parties together in one place to resolve difficult claims fairly and finally, with the supervision of the bankruptcy court.  A bankruptcy allows the Diocese to deal with all these issues collectively rather than one at a time. At the same time, the process will provide a way for the Diocese to continue the various charitable ministries in which it is engaged. 

Bishop Vasa

The Bishop noted that the Diocese in Santa Rosa is not the only one to choose this path. Thirty-one dioceses across the U.S. had filed bankruptcy by May of this year, according to the Penn State Law Library. The statement was also careful to note that parishes and Catholic schools within the area are “separate civil corporations or separate ecclesial entities and should not be parties to this filing.”