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California Catholic diocese files for bankruptcy amid 330 sexual abuse lawsuits

On Monday, the Catholic Diocese of Oakland revealed that it had declared bankruptcy as part of its efforts to secure financial stability due to the 330 sex abuse lawsuits it is facing.

According to the diocese, the majority of the accusations revolve around sexual abuse offenses committed by priests who are either deceased or no longer serving in ministry, during the 1960s, 70s, and 80s.

Bishop Michael C. Barber stated in a communication to parishioners that the diocese considers “this method to be the most effective approach to guarantee a just and impartial resolution for victims.”

“It is important we take responsibility for the damage done so we can all move beyond this moment and provide survivors with some measure of peace. Sadly, for many, the pain caused by these horrific sins, no matter when they occurred, will never wash away, which is why we offer support to survivors and pray for their continued healing,” the Bishop noted.

Barber stated that the diocese’s bankruptcy will enable them to “stabilize their finances and uphold the holy mission bestowed upon them by Christ and the Church.”

The filing will not affect any Catholic schools operating within the diocese, since they are distinct legal entities and have no involvement in the matter.

California Catholic diocese files for bankruptcy amid 330 sexual abuse lawsuits
In Oakland, California, individuals gather at Cathedral of Christ the Light to participate in a memorial mass. (Getty Images)

The diocese stated that vendors will receive payment for all goods and services provided subsequent to the filing. The lawsuits were instigated by purported survivors, facilitated by California’s allowance of time-barred and expired cases to be submitted.

The decline in attendance at Catholic mass after the COVID-19 pandemic coincides with the church’s challenges in managing an elderly clergy.

California Catholic diocese files for bankruptcy amid 330 sexual abuse lawsuits
According to the diocese, attendance for Catholic mass decreased by 42% in 2021, resulting in the filing. (San Francisco Chronicle via Getty Images)

The lifting of the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits against institutions accused of enabling abuse was made temporary through California Assembly Bill 218.

According to Barber, it was not feasible for the church to carry the responsibility of litigating the numerous cases.

SNAP, or the Survivors Network, claimed that the bankruptcy is an effort to deprive survivors of justice and transparency.

“Everything about this bankruptcy strikes us as wrong,” the group said in its statement. “It is all about keeping money and secrets. From one coast to the other, the same ruse is being used by Catholic bishops. Minimize and cover-up child sex crimes, while keeping abusers in ministry.”

The diocese was labeled as an organization that lacks morality and does not merit to be declared bankrupt financially. This follows the Catholic church’s recent exposure to accusations of sexual abuse by priests dating back many years, as well as alleged attempts by the church to conceal it.

“We know the pain inflicted against our children and young people decades ago continues to cause great suffering,” Bishop Barber stated. “I am deeply sorrowful about this reality and pray daily for all impacted. As Pope Benedict XVI reminds us, there is sin and evil in the world, even in our Church. But there is also virtue and mercy in abundance. We must address the sin and move forward as instruments of God’s mercy and holiness.”

In the East Bay region, the Diocese of Oakland caters to Alameda and Contra Costa counties, providing services to approximately 550,000 Catholics who belong to 82 parishes.

Kyle James Lee

Majority Owner of The AEGIS Alliance. I studied in college for Media Arts, Game Development. Talents include Writer/Article Writer, Graphic Design, Photoshop, Web Design and Development, Video Production, Social Media, and eCommerce.

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