(The AEGIS Alliance) – The Roman Catholic Church Diocese of San Diego has announced the possibility of filing for bankruptcy in the near future or in mere months, due to the massive financial burden of over 400 lawsuits accusing priests and other members of the diocese of sexually abusing minors. The legal costs associated with these cases are described as “overwhelming.”
Bishop Robert McElroy, in a letter that was slated to be distributed among the parishioners, has informed that the lawsuits have arisen after the state of California lifted the time limit for filing claims related to sexual abuse of minors.
Assembly Bill 218, which became law in 2019, permits individuals who claim to be victims of childhood sexual abuse to take legal action until they turn 40 years old. Additionally, starting in 2020, it provided a three-year period during which individuals could file lawsuits, regardless of their age.
According to Kevin Eckery, the communications director for the diocese, the majority of the abuse claims listed in the lawsuits occurred between 50 to 75 years ago, with the earliest incident being reported in 1945, as mentioned in a Friday news conference covered by KNSD-TV.
Eckery estimated that resolving all the cases without going to trial would cost the diocese approximately $550 million.
In his correspondence, Bishop McElroy stated that none of the lawsuits include accusations against any priests who are currently serving in the diocese.
“This reflects the reality that the church has taken enormous steps to root out the sexual abuse of minors in its life and to promote the protection of minors,” McElroy’s letter reads in part.
Despite the absence of current priests being accused, the diocese is grappling with enormous legal expenses, with the bishop writing that the majority of its assets were previously used to settle previous claims through a $198 million payout in 2007, according to McElroy
The letter continued, “Even with insurance, the diocese will not be able to pay out similar sums now. This challenge is compounded by the fact that a bill has now been introduced into the legislature that seeks to eliminate the statute of limitations entirely, leaving the diocese vulnerable to potential lawsuits forever.”
According to the bishop, declaring bankruptcy would offer a means for the diocese to compensate victims of sexual abuse, while still being able to perform its religious duties and manage its various programs.
The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego encompasses San Diego and Imperial counties, with a total area of over 8,800 square miles, and a Catholic community of nearly 1.4 million people. The diocese currently has more than 100 active priests, as stated on its official website.
Kyle James Lee – The AEGIS Alliance – This work is licensed under a Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 4.0 International License.