Earlier this week, San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone revealed that it’s “very likely” that the archdiocese would be filing for bankruptcy due to the hundreds of clerical abuse lawsuits filed against it. If, as expected, the San Francisco Archdiocese soon files for Chapter 11 protection (bankruptcy), almost 1 in 5 of the nation’s largest 50 Catholic dioceses will have taken this route. Rockville Centre is the largest (#8 with 1,428,563 Catholics). Then, San Diego (#13 with 930,379 Catholics), Milwaukee (#21 with 731,516 Catholics), St. Paul-Minneapolis (#22 with 730,989 Catholics), and Buffalo (#23 with 707,981 Catholics). Rounding out the list: New Orleans (#40 with 488,004 Catholics), Camden (#41 with 458,044 Catholics), and Albany (#48 with 400,000 Catholics). By comparison, the San Francisco Archdiocese is the 42nd largest, with 425,210 Catholics.
It should also be noted that at least three Catholic religious orders have also filed for Chapter 11 protection: the Oregon Province of the Jesuits, the Congregation of the Christian Brothers, and the Crosier Fathers and Brothers, mainly in Minnesota and Arizona. Apparently, Chapter 11 has become an increasing trend with Catholic officials.
The last ten dioceses to seek bankruptcy have done so in the previous four years; Rochester in 2019; Harrisburg, Buffalo, New Orleans, Syracuse, Rockville Centre, and Camden, all in 2020; Norwich in 2021; Santa Rosa, Oakland, Albany, all in 2023. By contrast, the first ten dioceses to seek bankruptcy did so over a decade. Portland, Tucson, and Spokane all filed in 2004. Seven more dioceses followed: Davenport in 2006, San Diego in 2007, Fairbanks in 2008, Wilmington in 2009, Milwaukee in 2011, Gallup in 2013, and Stockton in 2014.
So what’s behind this threat of bankruptcy by San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone? Is it POSSIBLE he’s got good intentions? We at Horowitz Law don’t think so. Consider these three facts:
1) For years, the San Francisco Archdiocese has been the largest one west of the Mississippi that still refuses to identify predator priests on its website. (Miami is even bigger; it, too, refuses to disclose its child molesting clerics.)
2) More than a decade ago, California lawmakers were the first nationwide to open a ‘window’ for survivors to sue decades later. That reform and the hundreds of subsequent child sex abuse and cover-up lawsuits gave the prelates who run San Francisco, Los Angeles, San Diego, and the other dioceses across the state both the opportunity and the incentive to finally and thoroughly ‘clean up their act’ and get rid of those who inflicted and enabled abuse on the innocent AND adopt real reforms to keep those who might inflict and enable abuse off their payrolls. But it’s obvious that none of them have. Why do we say it’s obvious? Because look at the number of abuse and cover-up lawsuits filed against California Catholic officials in the last three years. The total figure: More than 500!
3) The archbishop posted a “Q & A” section on the San Francisco Archdiocesan website featuring questions he raises and answered.
- “Does the Archdiocese of San Francisco have the financial wherewithal to litigate the more than 500 lawsuits filed under AB-218?”
- “What would a bankruptcy filing mean for the schools, parishes, and other ministries of the Archdiocese?”
- “Would any Chancery employees lose their jobs?”
- “What is Chapter 11?”
- “Will any contributions to the parish offertory or the Archdiocesan Annual Appeal be used to settle sexual abuse lawsuits in a bankruptcy?”
- “How long would the Archdiocese be in bankruptcy?”
- “Is bankruptcy a way to minimize your financial responsibilities to the abuse survivors?”
- “How much money will it take to settle the more than 500 lawsuits?”
- “Have other dioceses that have filed for Chapter 11 emerged?”
- “Is there a chance the Archdiocese would close any Catholic schools or parishes as a result of a Chapter 11 filing?”
- “What happens to the more than 500 lawsuits filed against the Archdiocese?”
You’ll notice that of these 11 questions, ten of them deal exclusively with themselves: church officials, church employees, church finances, and church facilities. The word ‘survivor’ is mentioned ONLY ONCE in the questions themselves, but not in the first six questions. That speaks volumes about who and what the San Francisco Archdiocesan officials want to help and protect in their legal maneuvers.
Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by religious authority figures and other clergy. If you need a lawyer because a member of a religious organization sexually abused you, contact us today at 888-283-9922 or [email protected] to discuss your options today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse nationwide. We can help.