The Diocese of Oakland is filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy over child sex abuse claims. The diocese announced on Monday that it is facing more than 330 lawsuits.
According to the release, Catholic schools 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.”
The California Assembly Bill 218, effective January 1, 2020, extends the period that sex abuse claims can be filed in the state.
The Oakland Diocese says that most claims occurred in the 60s, 70s, and 80s by priests who are no longer active and/or deceased.
However, Dan McNevin with SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, says this is a common tactic to cover how much 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 refuted the diocese’s claim that it doesn’t have money to cover all 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 hopes the court will reject the Chapter 11 filing and for federal and state lawmakers to investigate if this bankruptcy is an effort to bypass the law.