San Diego Diocese Says Sexual Abuse Lawsuits May Bankrupt Them

The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego has informed members of its clergy that it could declare bankruptcy amid hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits.

Alleged sexual abuse victims stand during a vigil.

Alleged sexual abuse victims stand during a vigil to bring attention to victims of sexual abuse from religious leaders within the Catholic church.

Alleged sexual abuse victims stand during a vigil.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego revealed last week that it will possibly need to declare bankruptcy in the coming months in wake of “staggering” legal costs due to hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits involving former members of the clergy.  

The Associated Press obtained a letter that was expected to be given to parishioners this past weekend in which Bishop Robert McElroy attempted to establish that none of the suits involve current priests. “This reflects the reality that the Church has taken enormous steps to root out the sexual abuse of minors in its life and to promote the protection of minors,” McElroy wrote.

McElroy claimed the lawsuits not only stem from a recently passed law by the state of California, which allowed for people to sue over alleged childhood sexual abuse until the age of 40, but also a three-year span, starting in 2020, where the statute of limitations was lifted.

Kevin Eckery, communications director for the diocese, said a majority of its current lawsuits occurred 50 to 70 years ago—and date as far back as 1945—during a press conference on Friday, according to KNSD-TV. Eckery believes the diocese could pay out about $550 million in order to settle these latest cases. 

In a meeting with 200 representatives of the diocese in attendance Thursday night, McElroy said most of its funds were depleted after reaching settlements with 144 victims, totaling $198 million, in 2007, adding, “Even with insurance, the diocese will not be able to pay out similar sums now.”

In the letter, McElroy suggested that bankruptcy could “provide a pathway for ensuring that the assets of the diocese will be used equitably to compensate all victims of sexual abuse.” 

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