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San Diego diocese weighs bankruptcy in face of clergy abuse lawsuits

[JURIST] The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego [official website] said in letter [PDF text] to parishioners Sunday that it will consider declaring bankruptcy in light of the more than 140 pending lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by priests. Signed by Bishop Robert Brom [official profile], the letter stated that if fair settlements cannot be reached in the cases, the diocese may be forced to file a Chapter 11 reorganization [SEC backgrounder] in bankruptcy court. The first case is set for trial in San Diego Superior Court on February 28; three other trials are currently scheduled to follow.

If the Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego files for bankruptcy, it would be the fifth in the nation to do so as a way to seek protection from the clergy sex abuse scandals [JURIST news archive]. In January 2007, the Catholic Diocese of Spokane [diocesan website] agreed to settle molestation claims [JURIST report] against priests for $48 million as part of its Chapter 11 reorganization plan [diocesan materials]. The Archdiocese of Portland filed for Chapter 11 [JURIST report] in 2004, and the dioceses of Tuscon, Spokane, and Davenport soon followed suit in the wake of hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits [JURIST news archive] against clergy. Last month, the Portland archdiocese filed a new bankruptcy plan [JURIST report] including a $75 million settlement of the sexual abuse claims. AP has more. The San Diego Union-Tribune has local coverage.

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