California based United States Bankruptcy Judge Louise DeCarl Adler ordered 42 clergy sex abuse cases against the Catholic Diocese of San Diego to go to trial recently. Judge Adler accepted the molested parties plaintiff attorneys’ arguments that trial would likely force the San Diego Diocese to settle and resolve the sex abuse claims made against their priests. In February of 2007, these trials were suspended the day before they were scheduled to begin when the San Diego Diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Thus far, the Diocese has offered to settle with the victims of these heinous crimes for roughly $94 million. This amount is far short of the $200 million claimed by plaintiffs attorneys, who assert that the Diocese can afford more even though they are currently under Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection. The victim’s attorneys also have stated that any less amount than a $200 million settlement would be insufficient to their clients for the damage and harm they have suffered. The trials have yet to be scheduled, but it is possible the first of the claims could begin within the next two months.
Filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy relief has become a pattern for our nation’s Catholic Dioceses. In January 2007, the Spokane Catholic Diocese settled molestation claims against its clergy for $48 million to be repaid through its Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization plan. The Archdiocese of Portland, OR, Tuscon, AZ, Spokane, WA and Davenport, IA have also filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in response to the hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits against their respective priests and clergy.