Bishop Jaime Soto of Sacramento Diocese Announces Upcoming Bankruptcy Filing Date as April 1

by | Mar 18, 2024 | Catholic Church

Sacramento Diocese Bankruptcy Horowitz Law

In a step that marks a poignant moment in its history, the Roman Catholic Sacramento Diocese announced its decision in December 2023 to file for bankruptcy protection after months of deliberation, joining dozens of others that have been financially battered by sexual abuse lawsuits. On March 18, 2024, the diocese revealed the filing date to be April 1, 2024. This decision, coming amidst a deluge of sexual abuse lawsuits, is both a reflection of the church’s past and a harbinger of its path forward.

On February 26, 2023, Bishop Jaime Soto of the Sacramento Diocese revealed that the diocese is considering bankruptcy as it figures out how best to deal with hundreds of clergy sex abuse lawsuits. His goal was for it to be set for March or 2024, but on March 18, Soto announced the date would be April 1, 2024.  There are currently more than 270 civil claims pending against the diocese. This figure includes both claims against the diocese for abuse by clergy and also claims related to Boy Scouts troops chartered by parishes in the diocese. The latest round of lawsuits, which are pending in a special proceeding in Alameda County, was filed after California legislation (AB 218) retroactively eliminated the statute of limitations for any claims of sexual abuse of a minor, regardless of how many decades ago the abuse occurred.

A Decision Born of Necessity

The Sacramento Diocese, like its counterparts in San Francisco, Oakland, Stockton, and Santa Rosa, has arrived at a crossroads. Bishop Jaime Soto’s December announcement underscored a painful reality: the diocese is embroiled in over 250 lawsuits alleging acts of sexual abuse by clergy or other church personnel. This legal imbroglio has tainted the church’s moral fabric and jeopardized its financial stability.

The 2019 change in California law, extending the statute of limitations for sexual abuse cases, was a pivotal moment. It has opened floodgates for lawsuits, compelling the Diocese of Sacramento to consider bankruptcy as a viable course of action.

The Path to Bankruptcy

The forthcoming bankruptcy filing is more than a legal maneuver; it is an admission of the church’s incapacity to address each claim through traditional legal channels individually. The publication of a list of “credibly accused clergy” serves both as a testament to transparency and a grim reminder of the church’s erstwhile oversights. This list, spanning allegations from 1933 to 2018, acknowledges the enormity of the diocese’s crisis.

Facing the Critics

Criticism of the diocese’s decision is expected, perhaps even warranted. Skeptics argue that bankruptcy proceedings could minimize compensation awards and potentially obscure the identities of abusers. Yet, these contentions overlook a critical facet of the bankruptcy process: its potential to provide equitable compensation to all survivors. The diocese posits that bankruptcy will facilitate financial reorganization and foster a more systematized settlement structure for victims.

A Call for Reflection and Action

In navigating bankruptcy, the church must balance financial accountability with a genuine commitment to healing. Transparency, empathy, and a steadfast dedication to justice should be the guiding principles. Furthermore, this period demands robust dialogue between the church, survivors, and the laity, fostering a culture of openness and reform.

For those affected, whether directly or indirectly, this development is more than a headline; it’s a beacon of hope for justice and a reminder of the long road to healing that lies ahead. Stakeholders, observers, and the faithful alike will be watching closely, hopeful for outcomes that bring closure to victims and pave the way for the church’s moral rejuvenation.

Horowitz Law is a law firm representing victims and survivors of sexual abuse by Catholic priests and other clergy in the Diocese of Sacramento in California. Our law firm has prepared and cataloged a comprehensive list of Diocese of Sacramento clergy accused of sexual abuse. If you need a lawyer because you were sexually abused by a priest in one of California’s Catholic dioceses, contact our office today. 

Although many years have passed, those abused by Catholic clergy in the Diocese of Sacramento have legal options. Very strict filing deadlines will be set by the Bankruptcy Court, so please contact us to discuss your case today. Our lawyers have decades of experience representing survivors of clergy sexual abuse in California and nationwide. We can help. Contact us at 888-283-9922 or email [email protected] to discuss your options today.