Statement by Clergy Sex Abuse Attorney Jeff Anderson on Diocese of San Diego’s Imminent Bankruptcy

On Monday, another Catholic bishop will seek Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection because of decades of heinous clergy sex crimes, deliberate cover-ups, and the bravery of over 400 victims who are seeking justice. This bankruptcy filing is especially troubling because this same diocese was almost deemed in contempt of court by a judge the first time it tried this shrewd ploy over a decade ago.

Today, Bishop Robert McElroy of San Diego officially revealed that he intends to formally file Monday in federal court.

In preparation for this legal move, the former San Diego Bishop allegedly acted fraudulently and deceptively by quietly transferring church assets and property to hide their true ability to pay survivors. The transfer of property is the same thing bishops have been doing with their predator priests for decades. He faces several charges for his shrewd and self-serving behavior.

These deceptive legal ploys by the church hierarchy are designed to protect their careers, reputations, secrets, and assets. They will prevent and freeze lawsuits by survivors and enable bishops to stop depositions, discovery, and the release of long-hidden abuse secrets.

In our experience, representing thousands of abuse survivors across the US, including 68 survivors in the Diocese of San Diego, these top church officials are underestimating the strength and resilience of survivors of clergy sexual abuse.

Now, more than ever, we beg anyone who saw, suspected, or suffered clergy sex crimes of cover-ups to come forward, get help, call the police, and do everything possible to thwart McElroy’s continuing secrecy.

We strongly urge every single person with information or suspicions about predator priests to summon the strength and end their silence.

In most other church bankruptcies, bishops try to push survivors into coming forward within a very tight deadline, even though this is hurtful for many deeply wounded and still struggling victims. We hope Cardinal McElroy is more reasonable and compassionate and seeks a deadline of at least three or four months.

The Diocese of San Deigo is the fifth diocese to file for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy in California following the close of the Child Victims Act on December 31, 2022. The Diocese of Sacramento (4.2024), The Diocese of Santa Rosa (3.2023), the Diocese of Oakland (5.2023), and the Archdiocese of San Francisco (8.23) have already filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy protection in the wake of child sexual abuse lawsuits. The Diocese of Fresno is expected to file for bankruptcy in the coming months.

Since 2004, 35 Catholic dioceses have sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection.