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Archdiocese of San Francisco likely faces bankruptcy


Jeffrey Bruno

Archbishop Cordileone delivers his homily on the importance of beauty as a means inspiring faith.

J-P Mauro - published on 08/10/23

Archbishop Cordileone has stated that parish activities should not be affected if the archdiocese were to declare Chapter 11.

On August 4, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone of San Francisco penned an open letter to the faithful in which he warned that the Archdiocese will likely face bankruptcy, as a result of lawsuit settlements. While the prelate lamented the situation the archdiocese finds itself in, he highlighted the current efforts of the Church to protect children in their care and promised that parish activities should not be affected by the Archdiocese’s financial collapse.

In the letter, Archbishop Cordileone first noted that the vast majority of allegations of child sexual abuse by priests are in regards to alleged occurrences in the 1960s, 1970s, and 1980s. The majority of accused priests are unable to defend themselves as they have since passed away. While these cases should be long past the statute of limitations, California has twice opened windows to file expired claims against alleged perpetrators as well as third parties, like the Archdiocese. 

The first window was opened in 2002, which saw about 100 lawsuits filed. In this window, the Archdiocese was forced to sell excess properties and lean on insurance to pay an estimated $68 million in settlements. This was not the end of it, however, as the California government opened a second window in 2019, this time lasting three years and aimed at all non-profit organizations in the state. 

The 2019 window, which closed at the end of 2022, resulted in more than 500 additional lawsuits leveled at the archdiocese. Now, as the courts have begun setting imminent trial dates for these suits, the Archdiocese of San Francisco has noted that bankruptcy may be the only option for managing and resolving the cases. 

Cordileone noted two goals that bankruptcy can help to achieve: fair and equitable resolution of hundreds of cases and at a faster pace than individual court hearings would allow; and Chapter 11 would also allow the Archdiocese to restructure and continue its vital ministries to the faithful. The prelate wrote: 

“The operations of our parishes and schools should continue as usual without disruption, as should the activities of the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese would join a growing list of dioceses in the United States and California that have filed for protection under the bankruptcy laws. Some of these dioceses have already restructured and emerged from this process.”

In addition, Archbishop Cordileone highlighted some of the current policies at work in the archdiocese to protect children, which he believes “sets the standard for other organizations.” These include rigorous screening processes for those employed in the archdiocese, diligent management of their “safe environment program,” and even documenting the fingerprints of those volunteers who work with minors. 

The archbishop encouraged his flock to renew their commitment to the Living Consecration, a call which he has been leading since 2017 when he consecrated the Archdiocese to the Immaculate Heart of Mary. He called on his flock to show a sign of Christian solidarity with the archdiocese: 

“While a great majority of these sins were committed many decades ago, it is a sign of Christian solidarity that we join together in praying the rosary daily and at least once a week as a family, spending an hour of adoration of our Lord in the Blessed Sacrament once a week, and fasting on Fridays for the survivors of abuse, for the mission of our Archdiocese, and for the eradication of this shameful crime from our society as a whole. God is pleased by such prayer and penance, and doing so will open our hearts to the blessings He wishes to lavish upon us.”

Read the full letter at the Archdiocese of San Francisco’s website. 

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