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SAN DIEGO (ChurchMilitant.com) - A Golden State diocese is facing a lawsuit from its own insurance company.
On Friday, The Catholic Mutual Relief Society of America, also known as Catholic Mutual Group, filed a lawsuit in federal court against one of its own clients, the diocese of San Diego. The insurance company is accusing the diocese of violating the terms of its policies and claims it shouldn't have to continue paying the diocese's clerical sex abuse settlements.
The diocese shot back, saying the suit came as a surprise and said that "we will be opposing this in court."
The insurance company accused the diocese of knowing that a number of its clerics "had proclivities toward sexual abuse of children such that coverage is precluded." The insurance company claimed that recent statements from the diocese violated the terms of the insurance policy. On Feb. 9, San Diego Cdl. Robert McElroy revealed to his parishioners that the diocese may be filing for bankruptcy. And the following day, the diocese's spokesperson noted that the abuse claims could cost the diocese $550 million.
Catholic Mutual Group accused the diocese of making these statements without consulting it and claimed that the comments "effectively placed an unreasonable baseline on the value on the potential settlement value of these claims." In the lawsuit, the insurance company is asking the judge to free it of any duty to help the diocese concerning abuse claims made from 1958–1990. According to one of the lawyers representing over 100 victims, hundreds of the clergy sex abuse claims against the diocese are from the '60s, '70s and '80s.
In 2019, California passed a law that opened a three-year window for victims of clergy sex abuse to file lawsuits that otherwise would have breached the legal deadline. Before the law was passed, the San Diego diocese came under fire for transferring hundreds of real estate properties to individual parishes, leaving fewer assets for impending sexual abuse lawsuits. The real estate transfers were the subject of another lawsuit against the diocese last year.
At the time, the diocese issued a press release to take advantage of the three-year window, stating:
No amount of money can make up for the evil done to victims of priestly sex abuse, but we can and must finish the job of compensating victim/survivors for the wrong that was done to them whenever it took place. To that end, I ask you to keep the victim/survivors of priestly sex abuse in your prayers, that they may feel the healing touch of a faithful and loving God.
Critics were horrified last year when Pope Francis chose San Diego Bp. Robert McElroy to become one of the newest American cardinals despite McElroy having a long history of covering up clerical sex abuse. One abuse victim stated, "I can personally attest to the fact that McElroy is a monster." McElroy was also closely tied to disgraced homopredator ex-Cdl. Theodore McCarrick.
The diocese of San Diego is joining the growing list of Catholic dioceses in America that have filed (or plan to) file bankruptcy because they're overwhelmed with waves of child abuse lawsuits.