May 9, 2023
Following hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits for alleged crimes committed over the course of several decades, the Roman Catholic bishop of Oakland filed for bankruptcy on behalf of the diocese, a report from the Los Angeles Times confirmed.
“It is important we take responsibility for the damage done so we can all move beyond this moment and provide survivors with some measure of peace,” Bishop Michael C. Barber said of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy. “Sadly, for many, the pain caused by these horrific sins, no matter when they occurred, will never wash away, which is why we offer support to survivors and pray for their continued healing.”
“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,” Bishop Barber added. “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.”
Barber confirmed that the Oakland diocese was facing over 330 lawsuits from allegations of child sexual abuse by priests. Barber reportedly noted that the majority of the claims are from the 1960s, ’70s, and ’80s.
Catholic schools in operation under the Oakland Diocese are part of separate legal entities and are not included in the bankruptcy filing, according to a press release. Employees and vendors will also be “paid as usual” with employee benefits continuing uninterrupted, the release added.
KRON 4 reported that many survivors do not feel the bankruptcy filing ss either fair or equitable. Dan McNevin, a representative of SNAP (the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests), told the station that bankruptcy is a “common tactic by bishops across the country to cover up how 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,” McNevin said.
As a survivor of abuse, McNevin told KRON that he takes issue with the diocese claiming that it doesn’t have the money to cover all the lawsuits.
“We did a study of Oakland in 2004. We found over a billion dollars real estate with no debt,” he told KRON. “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.”
According to Bishop Barber, the diocese is financially insolvent.
“Given our current financial resources,” it’s not possible to “shoulder the burden of litigating 330 cases,” Barber said, according to the Los Angeles Times report.
“Even though Barber said the diocese hoped to provide ‘just compensation’ to victims, bankruptcy protection often freezes most or all litigation and can limit the assets available for legal settlements. Victim advocates say the move can also allow the church to postpone or avoid depositions and document discovery in lawsuits that might uncover past misdeeds,” the Times said.
The Los Angeles Times confirmed that the Catholic Church is struggling with a nationwide decline in parishioners.
California AB 218 – the landmark legislation passed in 2019 that opened a three-year-lookack window for any survivor of child sex abuse to file a civil lawsuit for damages – has had a significant impact on the Catholic Church.
Although the filing deadline concluded at the end of 2022, thousands of survivors of childhood sexual abuse were able to bring claims and secure the justice they deserved (many for crimes which occurred decades ago).
Last year, the California Catholic Bishops attempted to challenge California AB 218 – also known as the Child Victims Act – in an effort to curb the flood of ongoing lawsuits. But the U.S. Supreme Court declined to hear the petition (after the California Supreme Court denied a review).
Studies indicate that only one-third of childhood sexual abuse survivors disclose as children, while one-third never disclose past crimes. The average age to disclose childhood sexual abuse is reportedly 52.
When a survivor does come forward, he or she is often unable to obtain justice against an abuser due claims being barred under the statute of limitations. But AB 218 was enacted as an opportunity to change those tragic statistics, and although the limited lookback window has passed, older survivors may have additional options under the law in the near future.
For survivors of child sexual abuse who are under 40 or were victimized within the statute of limitations, you may currently be eligible to recover a cash settlement award by filing a claim with Dordulian Law Group (DLG).
When you’re ready to pursue justice through a civil claim, contact an experienced and qualified child sexual abuse attorney at DLG by calling 866-GO-SEE-SAM. We offer free and confidential consultations where you can ask questions, discuss your legal options, and receive an estimate for how long it may take to reach a financial damages award.
A DLG SAE Team sexual abuse lawyer will advise you on whether or not pursuing a claim is an option and provide an approximate value for how much your case may be worth in terms of a final settlement or verdict against your perpetrator (whether an individual or an institution).
DLG is led by former sex crimes prosecutor and RAINN National Leadership Council member, Sam Dordulian. As a Deputy District Attorney for Los Angeles County, Dordulian secured life sentences against countless sexual predators. Today, he fights for justice on behalf of survivors of childhood sexual abuse in civil court.
Our law firm in Glendale, CA advocates for victims of sexual assault, injury, employment disputes, and personal injury concerns.