Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno to file for bankruptcy, faces over 150 claims of abuse

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno is filing for bankruptcy to deal with the 150-plus claims of abuse in an equitable manner.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of Fresno announced Tuesday that it plans to file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy to deal with the high volume of abuse cases levied against clergy. 

Bishop Joseph Brennan said the diocese will file for bankruptcy in August. 


The big picture: The diocese faces 154 claims of abuse by clergy – a new surge because of a recent state law that opened a three-year window for people to bring forward otherwise barred or expired claims for sexual abuse suffered as a child, the diocese said in a press release. 

  • The diocese decided that filing for bankruptcy is the most suitable option to ensure that each claim is resolved fairly and handled with equitable compassion. 
  • A court-supervised reorganization ensure that all victims are fairly compensated and that the diocesan resources are not depleted by the first few cases. 

What they’re saying: “When I hear how many lives were affected by clergy sexual abuse, my heart truly breaks,” Brennan said in a statement. “I imagine the faithful may be dismayed by the news of our serious financial situation, but I ask them to let go of their distress and turn their hearts towards the victims of abuse.” 

Zoom out: Tuesday’s news follows the decision by the Roman Catholic Diocese of Sacramento to file for bankruptcy last month. 

  • Similar to Fresno, the Sacramento Diocese faces over 250 lawsuits and is filing for bankruptcy to ensure that funds are not depleted by the first few cases. 

Go deeper: Brennan penned an open letter to the diocese (which can be read here) saying he has been working with the College of Consultors, the Diocesan Finance Council, his own staff and professionals retained by the diocese to consider all available options. 

  • Filing for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy will allow the operations of schools, parishes and organizations to continue uninterrupted, since the only entity filing for bankruptcy protection is the corporate sole, which is known as The Roman Catholic Bishop of Fresno

Watch: The diocese also posted the following video message from Brennan: 

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