The Catholic Church in California is grappling with a staggering number of lawsuits, as over 3,000 legal cases have been filed against the institution under a 2019 state law that extended the statute of limitations for allegations of sexual abuse, according to a Washington Post report. Advocacy groups have been stunned at the sheer volume of cases that surfaced during the three-year window that allowed victims up to the age of 40 to file lawsuits regarding their alleged abuse.
At least a third of the 12 Roman Catholic dioceses in California have either filed for bankruptcy or are contemplating doing so to manage the influx of lawsuits. In fact, several California dioceses, including Oakland (ABC7 News), are set to face bankruptcy due to the massive number of legal cases and the crippling financial burdens incurred as a result.
Bankruptcy not only affects the finances of the dioceses, but it also freezes the discovery phase of lawsuits, potentially hindering further investigation and closure for the victims. Despite the huge numbers of lawsuits and staggering potential financial burden, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, the most populous Catholic diocese in the US, has said they are not planning to file for bankruptcy.
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) is now preparing a letter to Attorney General Rob Bonta, requesting a report based on information gathered from the California dioceses’ sexual abuse lawsuits and related court procedures. SNAP hopes that Bonta will closely examine the bankruptcy filings and potentially impose a secular structure aimed at increasing transparency and accountability for the Catholic Church.
As the Catholic Church in California confronts these allegations and the resulting financial challenges, many are left wondering how this crisis will ultimately impact dioceses and their ability to continue serving their communities. Advocacy groups like SNAP and other concerned parties continue to seek justice for the victims, while Catholic dioceses across the state are forced to re-evaluate their financial and operational plans as a result of these dramatic developments.