Oakland Catholic Diocese Files for Bankruptcy Due to Child Abuse Lawsuits

May 10, 2023 | Attorney, Matthew Dolman
Oakland Catholic Diocese Files for Bankruptcy Due to Child Abuse Lawsuits

The Diocese of Oakland filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy on Monday, May 8th, 2023 after being named as defendants in over 330 Catholic sex abuse lawsuits. The Catholic church continues to face a continual stream of sexual abuse lawsuits filed against them after evidence was revealed of efforts within their institutions to cover up the sexual abuse of children. The number of these catholic clergy sexual abuse lawsuits has only increased as laws such as California Assembly Bill 218 now extends the window of time sexual abuse survivors can file lawsuits against those liable for their trauma. 

Sexual abuse, let alone childhood sexual abuse, inflicts trauma that has consequences for a person’s entire life. Dolman Law Group serves those facing these consequences with seeking compensation for their damages in personal injury lawsuits. Consider contacting the clergy abuse lawyers of Dolman Law about scheduling a free consultation to learn how you can take legal action after experiencing clergy sexual abuse. 

History of Sexual Abuse in the Catholic Church

Various dioceses across the country and even the world are facing a massive number of Catholic sexual abuse lawsuits. The Catholic Church has dealt with scandals revolving around the sexual abuse of children by members of the clergy for decades. In the United States, this issue was first publicized in 1985 when a Louisiana priest pleaded guilty to 11 counts of molestation of boys.

Later, the floodgates were thrown open after a 2002 investigation by The Boston Globe that would later be dramatized in the award-winning 2015 film Spotlight revealed how far the abuse and coverups by the church went. 

Widespread attention towards clergy sexual abuse generated by this investigation led to many additional investigations around the country and world that uncovered not just sexual abuse of children by Catholic clergy but the measures taken by many Catholic dioceses to cover up these crimes instead of taking appropriate action to ensure the perpetrators faced justice. 

The Catholic Church’s Failure to Address Sexual Abuse Perpetrated by Clergy

Investigations across the country found many cases of sexual abuse in Catholic churches in almost every state going back decades with many survivors coming forward late into adulthood to discuss their ordeal. This is not an issue relegated to a specific region or time but a persistent international problem the Catholic Church has been aware of for some time yet they failed to take action until their wrongdoing was brought to light. 

Investigations have uncovered that many Catholic Dioceses would attempt to cover cases of sexual abuse perpetrated by members of the clergy by reassigning offending priests to different parishes when they learn of their crimes. These priests would often be put back into positions where they would be able to once again able to perpetrate their crimes. In some cases, members of the clergy known to have sexually abused children and be a risk to others would be reassigned to several different parishes.

Bankruptcy and Catholic Dioceses Facing Sexual Abuse Litigation

By 2012, the Catholic dioceses involved in these child sexual abuse scandals that ended up making financial settlements with abuse survivors ended up surpassing $3 billion in paid compensation. The Catholic dioceses such as the Oakland diocese are still dealing with civil lawsuits to this day and are looking at the need to pay millions in compensation to Clergy sexual abuse survivors. 

Dioceses across the country have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in response to the immense number of civil lawsuits they have faced. These proceedings give a business or organization the opportunity to restructure its debts and obligations in order to better pay them off while still remaining in operation. 

The Oakland Diocese Filing for Bankruptcy In Response to Catholic Clergy Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

The sheer number of clergy sexual abuse lawsuits has created a steep cost for dioceses such as the Oakland Diocese which is estimated to need to pay millions in settlements to sexual abuse victims. The Oakland Diocese is under this immense strain due to the passing of California Assembly Bill 218 which lifted the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits against institutions accused of enabling sexual abuse. 

However, some believe that their filing for bankruptcy is a disingenuous gesture considering the significant value of many assets owned by the church such as their real estate.

The Oakland Diocese is only the latest of many California dioceses to file for bankruptcy following the Santa Rosa Catholic Diocese with the Sacramento and San Diego Dioceses expected to follow suit. The Oakland Diocese serves Alameda and Contra Costa Counties and includes approximately 550,000 Catholics in 84 parishes.

Catholic Schools are considered separate legal entities from the Oakland Diocese and are not included in the bankruptcy filing. 

Damages in Catholic Sexual Abuse Lawsuits

The consequences faced by survivors of Catholic sexual abuse can affect almost every facet of their lives and persist well into adulthood. The trauma that one sustains because of these crimes is severe and leads to tangible losses that can be compensated through a settlement obtained by filing a lawsuit against a liable institution. The losses inflicted by sexual abuse enabled by a Catholic diocese are considered damages that can include the following. 

  • Pain and suffering
  • Medical bills (therapy costs, medication, etc.)
  • Lost career opportunity
  • Loss of enjoyment of life
  • Relocation expenses
  • Physical disfigurement/scars
  • Lost wages
  • Mental anguish/anxiety/distress

Contact Dolman Law Group for Help With Your Catholic Sexual Abuse Lawsuit

If you or a loved one have experienced sexual abuse perpetrated by a member of the Catholic clergy or any employee associated with a church institution then do not hesitate to contact Dolman Law Group about your case. Our Catholic sexual abuse lawyers are experienced in assisting survivors of sexual abuse with filing personal injury lawsuits against institutions such as Catholic dioceses that failed to take appropriate action to stop the sexual abuse of certain members of their organization. 

Our personal injury firm has established a record of success that speaks to not only our skill in handling these cases but our dedication to assisting people with these delicate matters. Contact our offices today to schedule a free consultation on your case to learn what our Clergy sexual abuse lawyers can do for you. 


Matthew Dolman

Personal Injury Lawyer

This article was written and reviewed by Matthew Dolman. Matt has been a practicing civil trial, personal injury, products liability, and mass tort lawyer since 2004. He has successfully fought for more than 11,000 injured clients and acted as lead counsel in more than 1,000 lawsuits. Always on the cutting edge of personal injury law, Matt is actively engaged in complex legal matters, including Suboxone, AFFF, and Ozempic lawsuits.  Matt is a lifetime member of the Million Dollar Advocates Forum and Multi-Million Dollar Advocates Forum for resolving individual cases in excess of $1 million and $2 million, respectively. He has also been selected by his colleagues as a Florida Superlawyer and as a member of Florida’s Legal Elite on multiple occasions. Further, Matt has been quoted in the media numerous times and is a sought-after speaker on a variety of legal issues and topics.

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