Diocese of Sacramento Contemplates Bankruptcy; SNAP reacts

(For Immediate Release February 28, 2023) 

The Diocese of Sacramento is considering bankruptcy. In our opinion, bishops' bankruptcies are usually about keeping secrets first, then protecting assets. Regardless of what Bishop Jaime Soto may say, we humbly request that all Catholics, law enforcement officials, and elected officials continue to put the victims of these heinous crimes first. They deserve justice and compensation since they have endured a lifetime of suffering.

We know that when courageous survivors come forward with their claims, secrets are going to be made public. That is when Catholic dioceses begin looking to the bankruptcy court for protection. For their bravery and moral character, these long-suffering victims deserve praise. They were let down by a group that was supposed to foster their spirituality, moral development, and well-being. Survivors are helping to make the community safer for future generations by speaking out and sharing their stories. Yet until all the information on these crimes comes to light, children cannot be kept safe.

It is a reality that for many years the Catholic Church ignored cases of clergy sexually abusing and raping children. These facts are increasingly beyond dispute. What people were led to believe was a house of worship was often a place where boys and girls were groomed and molested. These perpetrator clerics joined the Church because they knew they would have access to children, receive a salary, have a place to live, and could count on their bishop to assist them in avoiding prosecution. There are simply too many abusers in the priesthood to draw any other inference.

Bankruptcy should be about financial solvency. Sacramento has tremendous cash flows in the form of weekly and monthly donations, all of it tax-free. It owns hundreds, if not thousands, of parcels of property. Whether or not it segregated those assets into separate holdings, as sophisticated corporations do, should not fool a bankruptcy judge. It all is controlled by the bishop. He alone decides what gets sold and what does not. Not one single transaction in a diocese can go forward without his stamp of approval.

A judge must demand three items before allowing the Diocese of Sacramento to file for bankruptcy: audited financial statements with a 20-year history that include all aspects of what falls under the Bishop's control, a balance sheet that has been audited and includes the current values of the company's stocks, bonds, annuities, and ownership interests in hospitals, schools, property, and buildings, as well as the secret files on abusers. It is essential to force the Sacramento Diocese to be entirely transparent about what it knew when it knew it, and what it did and did not do regarding child sex abuse. Society cannot be certain that all child molesters have been identified or that processes are in place to protect children if those files are not made public.

We note that according to news reports, 234 cases so far accused priests, and another forty or so named Boy Scout leaders who used the Catholic Church to form troops where children were molested. These are alarming facts. 

At least 35 new clergy members connected to the Sacramento Diocese have been listed in SNAP's database as a result of these lawsuits. Even though we have not yet finished examining the cases that have been submitted, that represents an astonishing increase above the Bishop's list of 65 abusers. This gives further evidence supporting our long-held belief that the Diocesan list was short. Nuns, lay workers, and scoutmasters must now be considered as well. If the Bishop's list is honestly written, it will contain all of these names.

The number of abuse victims filing lawsuits is fairly small—234 thus far. We believe this may well be simply the iceberg's protruding tip.

CONTACT:  Dorothy Small, SNAP Sacramento ([email protected], 530-908-3676), Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager ([email protected] 267-261-0578) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director ([email protected], 517-974-9009) Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Board President ([email protected], 814-341-8386)

(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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