Diocese of Monterey contemplates bankruptcy after new wave of sexual abuse lawsuits

KSBW [Salinas CA]

April 26, 2024

By Felix Cortez

The bishop of the Diocese of Monterey said that they are contemplating filing for bankruptcy after being named as defendants in around 100 new lawsuits alleging childhood sexual assault.

The major announcement came via a letter from Bishop Daniel Garcia to parishioners dated April 18. The letter says these incidents occurred from the 1950s to 2002.

The lawsuits were made during a three-year window from 2019 to 2022 created by the Child Victims Act, which reopened the statute of limitations for childhood sexual abuse victims.

Garcia now says that the diocese is considering filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The reasoning was that “this would allow all victims to be compensated from the limited funds the Diocese has and will be allocated in an equitable manner.”

They, along with other Catholic dioceses in California, have had to consider filing for bankruptcy due to the Child Victims Act.

Speaking in person, Deacon David Ford with the Diocese of Monterey added, “With the limited resources we have, there isn’t a lot of options and our most important focal point is how do we equitably take care of any victims from these cases.”

Garcia writes in a statement that they considered other options but were unable to find another solution. He added while no final decision has been made, they likely will file for bankruptcy due to the large number of lawsuits they are facing.

But advocates for church sex abuse victims say there’s nothing equitable about filing for bankruptcy.

“The upshot of bankruptcy is it’s all about protecting the wealth of the diocese at the expense of all those kids who were sexually assaulted by the priests of that diocese,” said Rick Simons, managing attorney for the sexual abuse lawsuits.

Simons said bankruptcy could mean smaller settlements for victims of sexual abuse and the process could take years to play out.

“And for a lot of survivors, that means discouragement and depression and unfortunately, because so many of these survivors die early, it means some of them will die and save the diocese money,” Simons said.

The spokesman for the Diocese of Monterey countered.

“We’re definitely not trying to minimize and not give those who have suffered their due,” Ford said.

Ford said no decision to file for bankruptcy will be made until further discussions with clergy advisors and that parishioners will continually be updated on the process.

Garcia ended the statement by saying that since 2002, the diocese has required every clergy and laity who participates in ministry to take a yearly “Safe Environment” training.