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San Francisco Archdiocese becomes latest to file bankruptcy

Bankruptcy Chapter 11, court

Vitalii Vodolazskyi | Shutterstock

J-P Mauro - published on 08/24/23

Archbishop Cordileone announced that the archdiocese would seek Chapter 11 protections to reorganize and settle more than 500 lawsuits.

Fears that the Archdiocese of San Francisco would have to declare bankruptcy were confirmed in an August 21 letter from Archbishop Cordileone. The move will halt all lawsuits against the archdiocese while it reorganizes its resources through Chapter 11, in order to settle the cases brought against the archdiocese during a brief “open window” period that waived the statute of limitations on past abuse allegations. 

In his letter to the faithful, Archbishop Cordileone lamented that the archdiocese would have to file for bankruptcy, but he noted that it was necessary to settle the more than 500 cases filed between 2019 and 2022. The prelate wrote: 

“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.”

According to OSV, there have been 31 other Catholic archdioceses and dioceses throughout the United States that have filed for Chapter 11 as of August 2023.

The Diocese of San Diego is expected to join them in November, which would be the second time the diocese declared bankruptcy due to lawsuits since 2007. San Diego’s 2007 filing was a result of the first “open window” period for lawsuits beyond the statute of limitations, in 2002. 

Archbishop Cordileone went on to assure the faithful that it is only the entity of the Archdiocese that will claim bankruptcy. Individual parishes, schools, and other Catholic-run organizations should not notice any difference in their day-to-day work

“Our mission will continue as it always has. Parishes will serve the spiritual needs of the faithful, celebrating Mass, offering the Sacraments, and providing religious education. Schools will provide the best Catholic education for students, and our Chancery will continue to support parishes and schools, and its ministries will remain engaged in the community.”

He went on to reiterate that the “overwhelming majority” of these cases occurred between the 1960s and the 1980s with most of the accused priests either no longer in ministry or now deceased.

Furthermore, he noted that many of the claims “include unnamed individuals or named individuals who are unknown to the Archdiocese.” He assured the faithful that the modern safeguards that have since been put in place have maintained parishioners’ safety: 

“We use stringent processes to screen volunteers, employees, and priests. Today, while this continues to be a widespread societal problem, occurrences of abuse within the Catholic Church are very rare, and I believe the Church has set the standard for other organizations, showing what can and should be done to protect our children.”

The prelate concluded by inviting the faithful to pray the Rosary, sit in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, and fast on Fridays for the intentions of abuse victims, the Archdiocese, and the eradication of child abuse: 

“God is pleased by such prayer and penance, and doing so will open our hearts to the blessings He wishes to lavish upon us.”

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