The Diocese of Oakland, which serves two counties in California's East Bay region and includes around 550,000 Catholics in 82 parishes, has filed for bankruptcy amid 330 sex abuse lawsuits.
According to Fox News : The diocese said that the alleged abuse claims occurred in the 1960s, 70s, and 80s by priests who are either dead or not active. The bankruptcy will allow the diocese to stabilize its finances and continue its sacred mission entrusted to it by Christ and the Church, according to Bishop Michael Barber.
In a statement, Barber said, "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. 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." However, the Survivors Network, known as SNAP, criticized the move, calling the diocese a "morally bankrupt" organization that doesn't deserve to be declared financially bankrupt.
California had allowed time-barred and expired cases to be filed by alleged survivors, leading to the lawsuits.
The filing comes as the church deals with an aging clergy and a drop in attendance for Catholic mass by 42% in 2021. California Assembly Bill 218 temporarily lifted the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits against any institution accused of enabling abuse, which Barber said the church "could not shoulder."
All Catholic schools that operate in the diocese will not be affected by the bankruptcy, as they are separate legal entities and are not included in the filing. The diocese said vendors would also pay for all goods and services delivered after the filing.
The Catholic church has faced heavy criticism over allegations of sexual abuse by priests dating back decades and alleged efforts by the church to cover it up.
Barber acknowledged the pain caused by the abuse, saying, "We know the pain inflicted against our children and young people decades ago continues to cause great suffering." However, he also emphasized the need to address the sin and move forward as instruments of God's mercy and holiness.
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