NEW YORK – A sixth California diocese has filed for bankruptcy.

Bishop Joseph Brennan of Fresno announced May 28 that the diocese will file for bankruptcy, as it faces 154 child sexual abuse lawsuits. Brennan said the decision allows the diocese to ensure it handles the claims equitably and allow ministry to continue in the diocese.

Brennan said he expects to file the bankruptcy petition in August.

“Filing for Chapter 11 [bankruptcy] will allow us to address the substantial number of claims brought forth by victims collectively, and it will allow us to address those claims honestly, compassionately and equitably,” Brennan said in a letter to the faithful.

Brennan added that filing for bankruptcy ensures that all victims are compensated fairly and that funds are not depleted by the first few cases addressed. He also noted that the process allows the operations of diocesan schools, parishes and organizations to continue uninterrupted, since the only entity filing for bankruptcy protection is the corporate sole, known legally as The Roman Catholic Bishop of Fresno.

Catholic Charities and The Fresno Diocese Education Corporation, which operates diocesan schools are separate legal or ecclesial entities and will not be filing for bankruptcy protection, he said.

The 154 lawsuits the Diocese of Fresno faces stem from California legislation AB 218, which eliminated the statute of limitations for any claims of sexual abuse of a minor for three years, from Jan. 1, 2020, to Dec. 31, 2022. The legislation, and others like it that have been enacted nationwide have led to a number of dioceses turning to a bankruptcy filing to try to address the lawsuits filed against them.

Brennan said the lookback window allows the diocese to redouble its child protection efforts.

“What we are facing gives us the opportunity to redouble our efforts in creating a safe environment for everyone in and out of the Church and address real issues in atoning for the sin of clergy abuse against children,” Brennan said.

In the letter, Brennan also said the dioceses pledge to protect the youth in the dioceses is an ongoing effort that will continue to be a “top priority” for himself and the diocese.

“Victims of abuse endure a lifetime of pain, and we as Catholics must commit to a lifetime of atonement,” Brenan said.

In California, the Archdiocese of San Francisco, and the Dioceses of Sacramento, Oakland, San Diego, and Santa Rosa have all filed for bankruptcy in recent years due to the lookback law. Other California dioceses have said they have no plans to file for bankruptcy, despite lawsuits against them. There have been an estimated 3,000 lawsuits filed against the Church in California since the legislation was passed.

In Fresno, Brennan asked the faithful to turn their hearts towards the victims of abuse.

“When I hear how many lives were affected by clergy sexual abuse, my heart truly breaks,” Brennan said. “I imagine many of you are dismayed by the news of our serious financial situation, but I ask you to let go of your distress and turn your hearts towards the victims of abuse.”

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