Franciscan Friars of California File for Federal Bankruptcy Protection

Adam Horowitz Law [Fort Lauderdale, FL]

January 8, 2024

The Oakland-based Religious Order Becomes the Fourteenth Roman Catholic Entity Asking for Federal Protection from Child Sexual Abuse Lawsuits.

In response to nearly 100 lawsuits that its Catholic priests and brothers sexually abused children, the Franciscan Friars Province of Santa Barbara filed for Chapter 11 federal bankruptcy protection late yesterday. By doing so, the California-based religious order joins more than a dozen Roman Catholic entities now in bankruptcy as the result of sexual abuse allegations and lawsuits.  It is the fourth California-based entity to do so, following the Chapter 11 filings of the Diocese of Santa Rosa, the Diocese of Oakland, and the Archdiocese of San Francisco. The Diocese of San Diego has said that it also intends to file for bankruptcy at some point in the near future.

The bankruptcy filing in the Northern District of California Bankruptcy Court comes after California lawmakers opened a temporary window that allowed victims of childhood sexual abuse to file lawsuits even if the statute of limitations had previously expired. As a result of the bankruptcy, all pending civil lawsuits against the Franciscan Friars are put on hold, and those claims will be handled by the Bankruptcy Court from this point forward.

Now years into litigation, the Franciscan Friars Province of Santa Barbara claims it has neither the financial means nor the practical ability to continue litigating all of the pending abuse claims in California’s courts. The Bankruptcy filing requires all of the claims to be filed and decided in a single forum – the Bankruptcy Court. “After consulting with our legal and financial counsel, we have concluded that litigation costs and potential liability would exceed our limited financial capacity,” read a statement from Fr. David Gaa, provincial minister for the Franciscan Friars.

The filing means that it is not too late to bring a sexual abuse claim against the Franciscan Friars if you were sexually abused as a child, even though the statute of limitations window has closed. A claims deadline, called a “bar date,” will soon be established by the Bankruptcy Court.  If you were a victim of child sex abuse by a priest or other church employee, you may be entitled to file a confidential claim in the bankruptcy claims process, but a strict deadline will apply, so do not delay in seeking legal counsel. Once the bar date has passed, you may be barred from seeking accountability from the Franciscan Friars forever.

In 2019, the Franciscan Friars disclosed the names of priests and brothers that it had determined, through internal investigation, had been credibly accused of sexual misconduct with minors who worked throughout the West Coast and American Southwest.  

The men we have identified are:

Accused Friars Who Are Still Living

Accused Friars Who Are Now Deceased

Accused Friars Who Have Left the Order

Accused Friars Named in Previous Public Filings With No Credible Accusation Found

  • Br. Didicus Clavel
  • Br. Matteo Guerrero
  • Br. Forrest McDonald
  • Br. Pedro Vasquez

Non-Friars or Mistakingly Linked to St. Barbara Province

  • Fr. Paul Conn
  • Gerald Heather
  • Fr. Maurice Scheier
  • Anton Smario

Names As Accused With No Determination And/Or Non-Friar

  • Fr. Davis Baines
  • Fr. Frank Chooi
  • Fr. Day Declan
  • Fr. Patrick Evard
  • Fr. Michael Harris
  • Fr. Rene Juarez
  • Fr. Henry Kingman
  • Fr. Juan Leon
  • Fr. Arthur Liebrenz
  • Fr. Michael Marin
  • Fr. Gabriel McCarthy
  • Fr. Finian McGinn
  • Fr. Arturo Norman
  • Fr. Edward Reyes
  • Fr. Roy Rivas
  • Fr. Mhilvetr Rodriguez-Utia
  • Fr. Giles Valcovich

The attorneys at Horowitz Law have a long history of representing survivors of child sex abuse, including those abused by members of the Franciscan Friars Province of Santa Barbara.  If you or someone you know was abused, please contact us today. We can help you understand your legal options and fight for the justice you deserve.  Strict filing deadlines will soon be set by the Bankruptcy Court. Please contact our law firm at 888-283-9922 or send an e-mail to sexual abuse lawyer Adam Horowitz at for a free consultation.