Press Release: The Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco Files for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy to Facilitate Settlements with Abuse Survivors

Parishes, Schools, Cemeteries, and Related Organizations and Ministries are Not Included in the Filing

SAN FRANCISCO, CA, August 21, 2023–The Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco (“RCASF”) announced today the filing of a voluntary petition for bankruptcy relief under chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. The filing is necessary to manage and resolve the more than 500 lawsuits alleging child sexual abuse brought against RCASF under California Assembly Bill 218, which allowed decades-old claims to be filed by December 31, 2022, that otherwise were time barred.   

Chapter 11 is a court-supervised process that allows each claim to be evaluated on its merits, provides transparency into the proceedings and into RCASF’s finances, and gives claimants a voice in the outcome. The Chapter 11 filing will halt all legal actions against RCASF while the Archdiocese develops a plan of reorganization that is based on assets and insurance coverage available to be used to settle claims with abuse survivors.

This is the second time California has allowed time-barred or expired cases of child sexual abuse to be filed by alleged survivors. In 2003, California created a similar window. Since that time, RCASF has paid more than $70 million to survivors in legal settlements by using insurance funds and selling excess property.

The 88 parishes within the Archdiocese are independently managed and self-financed and, along with their parochial schools, are not included in the filing. The Real Property Support Corporation, Capital Asset Support Corporation, high schools, Catholic cemeteries, St Patrick’s Seminary & University, and Catholic Charities associated with RCASF also are not included in the filing and will continue to operate as usual.

Employees of the Archdiocese will be paid as usual, and their benefit programs will continue uninterrupted. Vendors will be paid for all goods and services delivered after the filing.

RCASF will continue to serve the 442,000 Catholics in the counties of San Francisco, San Mateo, and Marin, and its priests and deacons will continue to carry out their missions and ministries within the Archdiocese of San Francisco.

The overwhelming majority of the more than 500 claims stem from allegations of sexual abuse that occurred 30 or more years ago involving priests who are no longer active in ministry or are deceased.

“The unfortunate reality is that the Archdiocese has neither the financial means nor the practical ability to litigate all of these abuse claims individually, and therefore, after much consideration, concluded that the bankruptcy process was the best solution for providing fair and equitable compensation to the innocent survivors who have been harmed,” said The Most Reverend Salvatore J. Cordileone, Archbishop of San Francisco. “It is the best way to bring much-needed resolution to survivors while allowing the Archdiocese to continue its sacred mission to the faithful and those in need. We must seek purification and redemption to heal, especially survivors who have carried the burdens of these sins against them for decades.”  

The Archdiocese of San Francisco has been committed to providing available resources such as counseling and pastoral assistance to survivors of abuse and had established policies and protocols to protect children and address and report incidents of sexual abuse of minors even before the U.S. Bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People in 2002. The Archdiocese has taken exhaustive steps to satisfy the Charter by immediately removing from active ministry any person with an allegation of sexual childhood abuse, requiring criminal background checks for clergy, employees, and volunteers who work with youth, and implementing educational programs for both children and adults to prevent abuse.

The Archdiocese maintains an Independent Review Board (IRB) as an essential step in its internal procedures for handling allegations of sexual abuse. A qualified investigator conducts investigations into allegations and submits a report to the IRB, whose members include an abuse survivor, psychologist, two physicians, a retired police officer, among others. They judge whether there is sufficient evidence to warrant a canonical trial or if an accusation is manifestly unfounded. The recommendations made to the Archbishop are indispensable, as this independent and expert advice directs whether an accused priest should be out of public ministry while canonical procedures are pending or when, in justice, the Archbishop should remediate damage to the reputation of a priest who has been wrongly accused. A list of priests and deacons who are in good standing and have faculties to minister can be found on the Archdiocese website. Priests or deacons who are under investigation for alleged child sexual abuse are prohibited from exercising public ministry and are removed from the list and can only return to ministry or the list if the allegations are found not to be sustained.

The Archdiocese also established an Office of Child and Youth Protection to maintain the highest standards for its preventative Safe Environment Program and address allegations of past and current abuse by any clergy, employee, or volunteer, and has two Safe Environment Coordinators to monitor compliance with the Charter. A Victim Assistance Coordinator maintains a hotline for reporting abuse, provides counseling, and offers other support services. The Office is also responsible for coordinating the fingerprinting of employees, volunteers, and clerics who interact with children, as well as facilitating annual compliance audits conducted by independent auditors to review the implementation of policies and procedures for the protection of children.

“Today, occurrences of abuse within the Catholic Church are very rare,” said Archbishop Cordileone. “Given the educational and preventative measures now in place, I believe the Church has set the standard for other organizations, showing what can and should be done to protect our children.”

The Roman Catholic Archbishop of San Francisco Chapter 11 case has been filed in the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Northern District of California. Additional general information can be found on the Archdiocesan website.