San Diego Diocese Mulls Bankruptcy

NBC San Diego
February 19, 2007

The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego said in a letter to parishioners this weekend that it is considering declaring bankruptcy to avoid going to trial on more than 140 lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by priests.

The pastoral statement, signed by Bishop Robert Brom, said if fair settlements can't be reached with abuse victims, "the diocese may be forced to file a Chapter 11 reorganization in bankruptcy court."

The diocese is concerned "that settlements not cripple the ability of the Church to accomplish its mission and ministries," the letter said.

San Diego Diocese Mulls Bankruptcy

The letter was included in the regular weekly bulletin handed out at services Saturday and Sunday.

If the diocese files for bankruptcy, it would become the fifth in the nation to seek protection in the clergy sex abuse scandal.

Victims told NBC 7/39 this amounts to a cover-up what they say is an effort to stall justice. Members of the "Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests' or SNAP said they hope to present a letter to Bishop Brom expressing their anger.

Attorney Andrea Leavitt said, "What the public needs to know is this is a very rich diocese with over 500 pieces of property and a lot of insurance."

Brom was expected to further address the issue at a pre-Lent meeting Monday of nearly 300 priests in the diocese. The diocese includes about a million Catholics in San Diego and Imperial counties.

There are 154 plaintiffs in San Diego County alleging priest abuse, Leavitt said. Brom, in his letter, wrote that 143 people had filed lawsuits against the diocese.

The first case is set for trial in Superior Court Feb. 28. Nicki Rister accuses the Rev. Patrick O'Keeffe of forcing her to have sex in his parish office in 1972 when she was 17.

Three other trials are scheduled to follow, involving multiple victims and allegations that the diocese protected abusive priests by moving them from parish to parish.


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