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SAN DIEGO (ChurchMilitant.com) - The diocese of San Diego is set to file for bankruptcy later this year under a siege of new lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by clergy.
Over 400 people say they were sexually abused by clerics in past decades in the Southern California diocese. As a result, the diocese plans to file for bankruptcy protection by November. This comes in the wake of the state's Assembly Bill 218, which reopened a three-year window for filing claims of sexual abuse. That window had closed at the end of 2022.
In February, the San Diego diocese warned the public of its intention to file for Chapter 11. At the time, Cdl. Robert McElroy of San Diego praised the bankruptcy solution as "a pathway" created for the benefit of sex abuse victims.
As if to assuage the moral weight of the abuse, the prelate added, "The majority of these suits concern actions that took place more than half a century ago."
Clergy victims' attorney John Manly shot back at McElroy's pretense of protecting the victims:
The Diocese is a healthy, wealthy institution. The Bankruptcy Courts should be a refuge for organizations who have encountered financial difficulties. It was not intended and should not be used by institutions who have engaged in the systematic criminal conduct. The Mafia is not allowed to file bankruptcy, and neither should the Catholic Hierarchy when they have knowingly allowed the rape of boys and girls by priests like the Diocese of San Diego.
The diocese serves over 1 million Catholics in 96 parishes.
This is the second time the diocese has declared insolvency. In 2007, it was forced to settle 148 claims of sexual abuse for $198 million.
Then-bishop of San Diego Robert Brom spun the filing as a victim-friendly measure, writing that the diocese had "decided against litigating our cases because of the length of time the process could take and, more importantly, because early trial judgments in favor of some victims could so deplete diocesan and insurance resources that there would be nothing left for other victims."
The news of bankruptcy also comes in the wake of the promotion of Robert McElroy, well-known for his cover-up of predator priests to the College of Cardinals.
McElroy covered up for arguably the most infamous predator of all: now-laicized Theodore McCarrick. McElroy, who as early as July 2016 had been told of McCarrick's sexual predation by renowned clerical sex abuse expert Richard Sipe, has remained silent.
And in 2014, when an abuse victim reported to San Diego diocesan officials that North American College alumnus Fr. Jacob Bertrand ritually raped her at her home when she was 24 years old, McElroy sided with the predator priest.
According to the victim, he covered up Bertrand's criminal deeds and, along with his lawyers, "refused to hand over key files ... and remained completely uncooperative with the police throughout the entire procedure."
When the victim was asked about McElroy's elevation to cardinal, she said, "I can personally attest to the fact that McElroy is a monster."
San Diego will join two other California dioceses that have recently filed for bankruptcy. Santa Rosa filed in March 2023, and Oakland filed earlier this month.
As of Monday, more than 20 Catholic dioceses and religious orders in the United States have filed for bankruptcy due to clergy sexual abuse claims.
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