The Roman Catholic Diocese of the Southern California city of San Diego says it may have to declare bankruptcy in the face of “staggering” legal costs resulting from around 400 lawsuits alleging priests and other members of the Catholic church hierarchy sexually abused children, The Guardian reports.
Bishop Robert McElroy said in a letter to Church members that the suits were filed after California lifted a statute of limitations on childhood sexual abuse claims by way of a bill signed into law in 2019 allowing victims to sue up until age 40. In 2020, the law opened up a three-year window for filing lawsuits without age limitations.
From The Guardian: Most of the alleged abuse cited in the suits took place 50 to 75 years ago, and the earliest claim dates to 1945, Kevin Eckery, communications director for the diocese, said at a Friday news conference, KNSD-TV reported.
Eckery predicted that it would cost the diocese $550m to settle the cases, none of which have gone to trial.
In his letter, the bishop said none of the suits involve allegations against any currently serving priest.
“This reflects the reality that the church has taken enormous steps to root out the sexual abuse of minors in its life and to promote the protection of minors,” McElroy wrote.
The diocese’s assets were nearly obliterated after it settled previous allegations totalling $198m in 2007, McElroy said, adding that “the diocese will not be able to pay out similar sums now.”