Facing a wave of hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits, the Diocese of Santa Rosa has filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.
Bishop Robert Vasa announced the imminent filing late last week in a statement, reading in part, “This decision was made necessary due to the number of child sexual abuse lawsuits filed against the Diocese over the course of the past three years.”
The lawsuits were made possible by a law passed in California in 2019 which opened a three-year period during which victims of alleged childhood sexual abuse could file lawsuits otherwise prohibited by current statute of limitations rules.
The period expired in December 2022, and the Diocese of Santa Rose was informed that they may be facing over 200 lawsuits.
Vasa explained, “These cases are too numerous to settle individually and so they have accumulated until the closing of the three-year window.”
This is the second time the Diocese has faced a wave of sexual abuse lawsuits, with the first round settling for around $35M in settlements.
Vasa added in his explanation, “Now, facing at least 160 new cases, with excess property depleted, with insurance for many of the years either non-existent or exhausted it is impossible to see any way forward without recourse to the bankruptcy protections our country makes available.” He continued, “A bankruptcy allows the Diocese to deal with all these issues collectively rather than one at a time. At the same time, the process provides a way for the Diocese to continue the various charitable ministries in which it is engaged.”
Victims and their lawyers blasted the church’s filing as an “ill-fated” attempt to shirk obligations to the victims of sexual abuse.