San Diego Roman Catholic Diocese to File Chapter 11 Bankruptcy on Monday, June 17

(SAN DIEGO, June 13, 2024) — In a letter to parishioners and clergy released today, Cardinal Robert McElroy, Bishop of San Diego, announced that the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego would file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Monday, June 17.  The action comes 16 months after Cardinal McElroy said the diocese was considering bankruptcy as a means of achieving a just settlement with abuse survivors and a year after the diocese confirmed it would seek bankruptcy and began mediation with attorneys for abuse survivors.

In his letter, the Cardinal says that, “The Diocese faces two compelling moral claims in approaching the settlement process: the need for just compensation for victims of sexual abuse and the need to continue the Church’s mission of education, pastoral service and outreach to the poor and marginalized.

“Bankruptcy offers the best pathway to achieve both,” said Cardinal McElroy.

Only the diocese is filing for bankruptcy. Parishes, Catholic Charities, parochial schools and Catholic high schools are not and will continue normal operations.  As Cardinal McElroy explains in his letter, however, “It is clear that as part of providing appropriate compensation to past victims of the sexual abuse of minors, both the parishes and high schools will have to contribute substantially to the ultimate settlement in order to bring finality to the liability they face.”

In 2019, the California Legislature passed  AB 218 (Gonzales-Fletcher), which revived time-barred claims alleging the sexual abuse of minors and opened a 3-year window (2020-2022) where injured parties could file suit. It was the second time the Legislature had lifted the statute of limitations since 2003.  In 2007, the diocese settled lawsuits brought by 144 abuse survivors during the 2003 revival for $198 million.  In 2023, the most recent revival resulted in more than 450 claims against the Diocese, almost 60 percent of which are more than 50 years old.

In closing, Cardinal McElroy reminded us that the reason the Diocese is faced with bankruptcy is “the moral failure of those who directly abused children and teenagers, and the equally great moral failure of those who reassigned them or were not vigilant, that led to the psychological and spiritual wounds that still crush the hearts and souls of so many men and women in our midst.”

“The tremendous strides we have made in the past twenty years to protect minors in the Church and beyond cannot begin to mitigate the enormous moral responsibility that I, as your bishop, and the entire Catholic community continue to bear,” concludes the Cardinal, “May God never let this shame pass from our sight, and may God’s tenderness envelop the innocent children and teenagers who were victimized.”