Diocese of Oakland Considers Bankruptcy; SNAP Responds

(For Immediate Release March 17, 2023) 

The Bishop of the Diocese of Oakland says he is “strongly” considering declaring bankruptcy because of an avalanche of lawsuits. Bishop Michael Barber directs his letter to “Parishioners and Friends” of the Diocese and laments the property he will need to sell and bankruptcy’s impact on his plan to realign parishes because of a priest shortage.

Nowhere in his letter does he lament the harm done to the 330 souls who have sued his Diocese. Nowhere does he acknowledge these people were part of the Oakland Diocese. They were baptized and confirmed, they were altar servers or attended Catholic schools. Their families entrusted their children to the priests who molested them, and those families donated their time and money to the Diocese. They in effect paid the clergy who destroyed their children's lives.

Bishop Barber is woeful about his problems but seems to view the victims simply as a large number and not human beings who deserve both his compassion as well as just reparations.

There are 80 parishes in Oakland, and there are 330 victims so far, although not all the lawsuits have been logged at this time. That could well mean every single parish and school in the Diocese harbored abusers.

Oakland’s founding bishop, Floyd Begin, is accused of sexually abusing a child. Oakland's longest-serving Vicar General, George Crespin, is accused multiple times. Fr. Crespin is still alive. Other clerics who are named in lawsuits are still alive. Some were still working when accused.

We believe that Bishop Barber does not want these men testifying under oath. He does not want to reveal how many times Bishop Begin appears in his secret files. Bishop Barber does not want the public to know how Fr. Crespin -- himself accused multiple times of abuse -- managed the many complaints he received while Vicar General. 

This bankruptcy, if it is filed, is about all the wrong things. It is about keeping money and keeping secrets. It should be about the survivors who have the courage to tell their stories and who are seeking truth and justice.

From coast-to-coast Catholic bishops are pulling the same tricks. Deny the truth and shuffle the molesters. Fight statute of limitations reform. Then, when secular laws work against them, they turn to the federal bankruptcy courts and claim that they are broke.

Oakland does not deserve to declare insolvency. It owns a $200 million Cathedral. It owns acres and acres of land in places like Piedmont, Orinda, Lafayette, and Danville. It is not poor, in our opinion, except perhaps in spirit and integrity.

We are calling on our state and federal lawmakers to examine these bankruptcy manipulations for possible fraud. The government should see through the charades and force the Oakland Diocese to confront these cases one at a time so that juries can hear the evidence and the testimony of victims and decide the harm and award just damages.

Would Jesus side with the truth, or with the money changers? Would he hide behind concrete walls in a fortress with a cross or would he stand on the street with victims? We think we know the answer to that.

Contact: Dan McNevin, SNAP Treasurer ([email protected], 415-341-6417), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Joey Piscitelli, SNAP Northern California ([email protected], 925-262-3699), Dorothy Small, SNAP Sacramento ([email protected], 530-908-3676), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected], 267-261-0578) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for more than 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)

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