Oakland Diocese Files For Bankruptcy, Citing 330 Child Sex Abuse Suits

— The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests argued the filing was an attempt to deny survivors justice and transparency they deserve.

By Anna Schier

The Roman Catholic Bishop of Oakland has filed for bankruptcy, citing over 330 child sex abuse lawsuits brought under a recent state statute allowing survivors to pursue cases that would otherwise be expired, the bishop announced Monday.

Under the Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, legal actions against the bishop will cease, according to a news release from the Diocese of Oakland, which said the bankruptcy would allow the bishop to develop a plan based on assets and insurance available to settle claims.

“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 Michael Barber said in the news release.

“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.”

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests argued the bankruptcy filing was an attempt to deny survivors the justice and transparency they deserve.

“Everything about this bankruptcy strikes us as wrong. It is all about keeping money and secrets,” SNAP said in a prepared statement.

“We would like to know if Bishop Barber considers the 330 innocent victims who have filed lawsuits against his Diocese? These wounded souls were members of the Oakland Diocese. They had been baptized and confirmed, worked as altar servers, or attended Catholic schools. Their families trusted the priests who assaulted their children, and those families donated time and money to the Diocese. They effectively compensated the clergy who had damaged their children’s lives.”

The diocese owns a $200 million cathedral and hundreds of acres in Piedmont, Orinda, Lafayette and Danville, according to SNAP, which called on the government to force the diocese to address the abuse cases one at a time, letting juries hear testimony and award damages.

While the bishop said most of the claims date back more than 30 years and involve priests who are dead or no longer active in ministry, SNAP noted Oakland’s founding bishop, Floyd Begin, is accused of sexually abusing a child, as is the long-serving vicar general, George Crespin.

“Other clerics who are named in lawsuits are still alive,” SNAP said. “Some were still working when accused.”

The bishop remarked that the diocese has created a review board to assess sexual abuse allegations, provides counseling to survivors, and requires clergy, volunteers and employees to undergo child sexual abuse awareness and prevention training as well as background checks.

Catholic schools in the diocese are separate legal entities and are not included in the bankruptcy filing.

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