Facing hundreds of lawsuits accusing the Catholic Church of enabling child sexual abuse, the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of San Francisco filed for bankruptcy Monday in an effort to facilitate any potential settlements.
The filing of Chapter 11 in a San Francisco court will allow the diocese to halt the lawsuits while it develops a plan to hold settlements talks, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone said in a statement.
"The unfortunate reality is that the Archdiocese has neither the financial means nor the practical ability to litigate all of these abuse claims individually, and therefore, after much consideration, concluded that the bankruptcy process was the best solution for providing fair and equitable compensation to the innocent survivors who have been harmed," he wrote in a statement.
"We believe the bankruptcy process is the best way to provide a compassionate and equitable solution for survivors of abuse while ensuring that we continue the vital ministries to the faithful and to the communities that rely on our services and charity," he added.
The "overwhelming majority" of more than 500 sex abuse claims occurred 30 or more years ago involving priests no longer active in the ministry or who are deceased, the diocese said.
The 88 parishes and schools within the diocese, which serves 442,000 Catholics in San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin counties, will continue to operate as usual. They are independently managed and self-financed and were not included in the court filing.
The lawsuits came after a 2019 California law allowing people to bring claims for childhood sexual abuse that would have otherwise been prohibited because of the expiration of the statute of limitations.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, known as SNAP, said the archdiocese was "morally corrupt" and that it doesn't believe the institution is as financially strapped as it claims.
"We seriously doubt that the Archdiocese of San Francisco does not have the assets to settle these lawsuits, and we find it disturbing that Archbishop Cordileone claimed this is the ‘best way’ for victims' lawsuits to be resolved," a SNAP statement said. "We can only hope that the federal judge closely examines the Archdiocese’s real estate holdings, which are spread across three of the richest counties in the United States."
It also noted that the San Francisco archdiocese has not released the names of abusers, despite requests from survivors.
In May, the Catholic Diocese of Oakland announced that it had filed for bankruptcy amid 330 sex abuse lawsuits in an effort to stabilize its finances.