On May 8, 2023, the Diocese of Oakland filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in the face of more than 330 lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse by priests. The bankruptcy filing in the Northern District of California Bankruptcy Court comes after a California law went into effect that allows victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits even if the statute of limitations had previously expired. As a result of the bankruptcy, all pending civil lawsuits against the Diocese of Oakland are put on hold, and those claims will be handled exclusively within the Bankruptcy Court.
The Diocese of Oakland was established in 1962 from the eastern territory of the Archdiocese of San Francisco. It is the second California Diocese to file bankruptcy this year. It is one of several Catholic dioceses across the country that have filed for bankruptcy in recent years due to the rising cost of child sex abuse lawsuits. The Diocese of Oakland estimated its assets as being valued between 100 million and 500 million dollars and its liabilities in the same range.
Dozens of alleged perpetrators have been identified by Horowitz Law in the Diocese of Oakland. Among the most notorious are the following:
- Father Stephen Kiesle: Kiesle was a serial child molester who was convicted of 20 counts of sexual abuse in 2004. He was later sentenced to 8 years in prison and died in 2008.
- Donald Broderson: Broderson was a priest who sexually abused dozens of children over the course of his career. He was removed from the priesthood in 1991 and died in 2010.
- Hector David Mendoza-Vela: Mendoza-Vela was arrested and charged in 2019 with 30 criminal and five felony counts of lewd acts upon a child
Catholic Dioceses currently in bankruptcy across the United States include: Buffalo, Camden, Norwich, Rockville Centre, Rochester, Santa Rosa, and Syracuse. The bankruptcy filing by the Diocese of Oakland is a costly and major blow to the Catholic Church, which has been struggling to deal with the fallout from the child sex abuse scandal. The scandal has rocked the church’s reputation and led to a decline in attendance.
The Diocese of Oakland claims it has has neither the financial means nor the practical ability to litigate all of the pending abuse claims in state court. The Bankruptcy filing requires all of the claims to be filed and decided in a single forum – the Bankruptcy Court. “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.”
For the victims of child sex abuse, the bankruptcy filing by the Diocese of Oakland is a reminder that their suffering has not been forgotten. Over 330 survivors have come forward with their stories in the hope of bringing justice to the perpetrators and preventing future abuse. It is not too late to confidentially bring a sexual abuse claim against the Diocese of Oakland. A Claims deadline will be established by the Bankruptcy Court. If you were a victim of child sex abuse by a priest or other church employee, you may be entitled to compensation through the bankruptcy claims process.
The attorneys at Horowitz Law have a long history of representing survivors of child sex abuse. If you or someone you know was abused by a priest in the Diocese of Oakland, please contact Horowitz Law today for a free consultation. We can help you understand your legal options and fight for the justice you deserve. Please contact our law firm at 888-283-9922 or send an e-mail to sexual abuse lawyer Adam Horowitz at [email protected] for a free consultation.