Sacramento Diocese files for bankruptcy in wake of more than 250 abuse allegations — By: Catholic News Agency

Cathedral of the Blessed Sacrament in Sacramento, California. / Credit: Randy Miramontez/Shutterstock

CNA Staff, Apr 2, 2024 / 14:15 pm (CNA).

Following more than 250 lawsuits alleging abuse against the Diocese of Sacramento, Bishop Jaime Soto announced on Monday that the diocese will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

California’s Child Victims Act, signed in 2019 and enacted at the beginning of 2021, extended the statute of limitations on clergy sexual abuse. Since then, survivors of abuse have brought forward more than 250 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse of minors by clergy and other employees going back to the 1950s.

“There are many victim-survivors who have long suffered from the reprehensible sins committed against them,” Soto said in an April 1 statement. “This reorganization process will allow me to respond to them as equitably as possible.”

Filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy will enable a court to oversee the distribution of the diocese’s available assets to satisfy the claims, the diocese, which has more than 100 parishes serving more than 1 million Catholics, noted in its statement. 

The process will create a fund “to be distributed to victim-survivors as equitably as possible,” the diocese stated. 

“Without this process, it is likely that diocesan funds would be exhausted by the first cases to proceed to trial, leaving nothing for the many other victim-survivors still waiting for their day in court,” the diocese noted.

Sacramento is one of many dioceses to file for bankruptcy in recent years, including its neighbors, the Diocese of Oakland and the Archdiocese of San Francisco, as well as several New York dioceses. 

“It is the sickening sin of sexual abuse — and the failure of Church leadership to address it appropriately — that brought us to this place,” said Soto, who has overseen the Diocese of Sacramento since 2008. “I must atone for these sins.” 

Soto previously announced his plan to file for bankruptcy in a December 2023 letter, where he said that bankruptcy was the “only respectful, transparent, and fair way to address the substantial number of claims” and “sustain the sanctifying, teaching, and charitable work” of the diocese.

California’s Child Victims Act allows civil claims of childhood sexual abuse to be filed by victims until age 40, or five years after discovering the damages from the abuse. Previously, claims had to be filed by age 26, or within three years of discovering damages from the abuse.

The law opened up a three-year window on Jan. 1, 2020, to revive past claims that would have expired under the previous statute of limitations.

In December 2019, California subpoenaed six dioceses in the state, including Sacramento and San Francisco, as part of a review of child protection policies.

Soto said in 2019 that the subpoenas “will move us toward our shared goal of ensuring that the safeguards in place for our children are working as they should.”

The diocese also set up a webpage with updates on the court proceedings. 

“Join me in praying for the healing of victim-survivors,” Soto said in the Monday statement. “The pain inflicted on them lasts a lifetime, and so our atonement must be a lifetime commitment.”

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