Just days after a major Bay Area Catholic diocese filed for bankruptcy in the face of hundreds of potential sex abuse lawsuits, the Diocese of Oakland announced it is seriously considering doing the same.
In a letter to parishioners that was also sent to media outlets Thursday, Bishop Michael Barber said he “is giving strong consideration to filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.”
Barber’s letter comes just three days after the Diocese of Santa Rosa filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in the face of more than 200 possible sex abuse lawsuits.
In both cases, church leaders cite a state law that opened a three-year window allowing childhood sex abuse lawsuits to move forward despite statute of limitations rules that had prevented older claims.
“Since the closing of the filing window on December 31, 2022, we have been informed there may be approximately 330 lawsuits filed against our diocese,” Barber said.
“After much prayer and thoughtful advice, I believe bankruptcy can provide a way to support all survivors in their journey toward healing in an equitable and comprehensive way,” Barber said. “It will also allow the diocese to reorganize our financial affairs so we may continue to fulfill the sacred mission entrusted to us by Christ and the Church.”
In a FAQ section on the diocese website, church leaders said the possible decision to file for bankruptcy is not intended to minimize its responsibilities to survivors of sexual abuse.
The Chapter 11 process is transparent and “allows all claimants equal access and an equitable share in the assets available to pay claims” while also allowing the church to continue its “mission as the Catholic Church in Alameda and Contra Costa counties,” according to the website.
The church has “limited cash reserves” but insurance and the potential sale of underutilized assets could also help pay some of the claims, according to the website.
A lawyer for a firm representing nearly 100 people with sex abuse claims against the Diocese of Oakland said the potential bankruptcy filing is a strategy to sidestep full transparency and accountability.
“It is, unfortunately, another stab at hiding information regarding perpetrators and the crimes committed by and through the church, as well as their assets and financial information, for the benefit of the church at the expense of those who have been seriously harmed as children,” said Jennifer Stein of Jeff Anderson and Associates.
Stein said it’s a tactic that’s been used by more than 20 dioceses around the country because, in part, it changes the legal focus away from the facts of the cases and puts it on the church’s ability to stay afloat financially.
Stein said she expects to see more such bankruptcy filings in the near future.
“These are institutions that have wronged children for decades and have put their own interest and their own financials above the safety of children time and time again,” she said.
A spokesperson for the diocese said there is not yet a timeline for when a decision about filing for bankruptcy will be made.
Early on explain to your kids what is wrong behavior and it’s OK to tell you if they feel uneasy around some people.
Adults who knew and did not report it should be prosecuted.
Doctors, teachers, therapists, clinicians, etc by LAW are required to report suspected abuse of a child or elderly.
I understand that the statue of limitation was extended to allow more people to come forth. My question is always why didn’t they come forth earlier and why did it take a lawyers crying I’m loose to come forth now? Still I got to give credit to the Catholic Church that it does want to pay whoever was injured and make sure that they’re all compensated properly. Still I wonder how many of frauds because they’re trying to claim things against people that are in dead now. How is that could be investigated? Or is it just going to be paid out. I give it to the church is it really appears to be taking the high road. Good example.
*I meant to say prying them loose, not crying
People have not come forward before now because of a powerful culture of shame and silence.
I don’t believe the Vatican is broke and they don’t have a good record of making restitution.in these cases.
This story is about Diocese Of Oakland. The Vatican isn’t filing for bankruptcy.
The Catholic Church isn’t a franchise, the clergy report up to Pope Francis (he lives in the Vatican by the by).
They are responsible for the actions taken to hide these crimes.
Tell me you don’t understand the Catholic church without saying you don’t understand the Catholic church.
Organized religion is for people who need it.
Believe in your own way.
Do no harm to others (within the law).
Be a good, helpful person.
Be a good American citizen.
Be kind to animals.
Observe lawful laws.
Be honest. Don’t cheat.
Glad someone said it.
And why did you not?
Freedom of expression is protected by the First Amendment of the US Constitution (with legal exceptions).
They knew about this for decades & transferred the Priests to other churches & it continued & continued. They should be ashamed. Why people still go to this church amazes me.
Dems / libs will push for bail out…. bets?
I am not Catholic but the number of lawsuits seems a little preposterous. I think many are trying to cash in on the lottery. This isn’t right.
There has been a pretty significant amount of reporting done on how widespread this is. The Boston Globe reporting on this concluded that something like 6% of priests had molested children. That’s a lot of priests operating for decades and being shuffled around to protect the image of the Church.
I don’t believe six percent of priests molest children although I know none of them. I don’t think anyone has the right to make a claim that wasn’t reported at the time it happened. This is some kind of a catch all lawsuit. There are so many anti Christian people out there that will do anything. As far as the Boston Globe goes nothing they print is truthful.
You don’t believe the 6% figure because… what? That was the finding of a pretty thorough investigation.
And people don’t have the right to talk about it later? That’s messed up. They were children and were coerced by authority figures to keep it secret. And it wasn’t openly known – none of these children knew it was happening to others.
Religion…yikes I got away from that in the 8th grade when I told my parents they were trying to brainwash me with all that BS.
Unbelievable that people still use it as a crux and hope for the future.
To each his own but do you believe there is a God out there and I mean any God with any religion that is allowing all this crap going on in the world today to continue? Well if you say yes then I’ll say good luck with that cuz there ain’t anything that’s going to change.
Good thing all these victims didn’t go to drag shows…… smh