The Catholic Diocese of San Diego filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on Tuesday putting a stop to an upcoming sex abuse trial and becoming the largest US diocese to file for bankruptcy thus far. The diocese had been engaged in settlement talks with plaintiffs' attorneys in the lawsuits over clergy abuse, however, after those talks failed to come to any resolution, the diocese filed for Chapter 11 reorganization. As Bishop Robert Brom explained, the diocese "decided against litigating our cases because of the length of time the process could take and, more importantly, because early trial judgments in favor of some victims could so deplete diocesan and insurance resources that there would be nothing left for other victims." David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said that the filing is not due to concerns for the victims, but rather "its for their own self-preservation."
The diocese told parishioners last week that it was considering declaring bankruptcy in light of the more than 140 pending lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by priests. In January 2007, the Catholic Diocese of Spokane agreed to settle molestation claims against priests for $48 million as part of its Chapter 11 reorganization plan. The Archdiocese of Portland filed for Chapter 11 in 2004, and the dioceses of Tuscon, Spokane, and Davenport soon followed suit in the wake of hundreds of sexual abuse lawsuits against clergy. Last month, the Portland archdiocese filed a new bankruptcy plan including a $75 million settlement of the sexual abuse claims.