Sacramento Diocese Officially Files for Bankruptcy Protection in the Wake of Over 250 Lawsuits

by | Apr 1, 2024 | Firm News

Sacramento Diocese Bankruptcy Horowitz Law

This is not an April Fool’s joke; it was announced in December 2023 that the Sacramento Diocese decided to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and now, as of today, April 1, 2024, it is official. The decision to file came after the Diocese received over 270 sexual abuse lawsuits 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. Filing for Chapter 11 is a move designed to allow the diocese to provide settlements to plaintiffs. The court will allow a certain period of time for victims to come forward.

However, once the bankruptcy window concludes, anyone abused before the filing date who did not come forward is barred from ever filing a lawsuit. Survivors of those Abused by Priests, SNAP, stated that “this would include those who do not remember their abuse, those who do not understand the impact it has had on their life, those who are not yet ready to speak out, and – most disturbingly – those children who are too young to understand that they needed to file a claim before the bar date.” This window will be the victim’s only chance for justice.

Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Protection

Bishop Jaime Soto of the Sacramento Diocese said in a statement that the bankruptcy filing will allow the court to oversee how assets are distributed to plaintiffs. “There are many victim-survivors who have long suffered from the reprehensible sins committed against them,” Soto said. “This reorganization process will allow me to respond to them as equitably as possible.”  

Established by the Pope in 1886, the Sacramento Diocese covers 20 counties in northern and eastern California and its more than 1 million Catholics. The diocese includes 102 parishes, 36 missions, 36 parish schools and five Catholic high schools. It directly employs about 110 people, according to the declaration.  Court documents state that the diocese has between 200 and 999 creditors, with an estimated $100 million to $500 million in assets and the same amount in liabilities. The Sacramento Diocese, along with several others in California (San Francisco, Oakland, Stockton, and Santa Rosa) and nationwide, turned to the bankruptcy court for protection.

The forthcoming bankruptcy filing is more than a legal maneuver; it is an admission of the church’s incapacity to address each claim individually through traditional legal channels. The publication of a list of “credibly accused clergy” serves both as a testament to transparency and a grim reminder of the church’s former oversights.

Two sides of Bankruptcy

There has been some criticism of the diocese’s decision, as some argue that bankruptcy proceedings could minimize compensation awards and potentially obscure the identities of abusers. The diocese declares that bankruptcy protection will facilitate financial reorganization and foster a more systematized settlement structure for victims.

In his statement, Bishop Soto said that the financial abyss the diocese is facing stems from church officials who committed the abuse or failed to address allegations of such actions. Soto stated,

“It is the sickening sin of sexual abuse – and the failure of church leadership to address it appropriately – that brought us to this place. I must atone for these sins. Pray for the healing of victim-survivors. The pain inflicted on them lasts a lifetime, and so our atonement must be a lifetime commitment.”

He continued, “I remain steadfast in my belief that I must continue to atone for the horrible sin of clergy sexual abuse. The sickening evil that was perpetrated upon innocent children – and the failure of Church leadership to address it appropriately – has caused unfathomable pain that endures,” Soto stated in a letter to the diocese. Soto explained that without this process, it is unlikely that abuse victims could receive fair consideration of their claims. More from Soto can be found in his letter to the public on the Diocese website.

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.