Diocese of Santa Rosa Files for Bankruptcy; SNAP Responds
(For Immediate Release March 14, 2023)
Yet another Roman Catholic Diocese has filed for bankruptcy, shielding itself from true accountability and abusing court rules to keep the public and parishioners in the dark about the true scope of clergy abuse in their area.
Yesterday, the Diocese of Santa Rosa, CA, filed for bankruptcy in a move that, in our opinion, aims to keep the public from understanding the extent of clergy sexual abuse that has taken place inside its boundaries. It is difficult to believe that the Diocese is as impoverished as it claims, especially given that Church officials bragged in their latest annual report about their “biggest year ever” in terms of fundraising.
California’s Child Victims Act aimed to give survivors access to the truth and a route to justice, but this proposed bankruptcy strategy would restrict a victim's ability to obtain compensation and, more importantly, would bar them from obtaining the Bishop's confidential records which would reveal the scope of previous and present cover-ups. Given that bankruptcy court has been abused along these same lines by numerous Catholic jurisdictions over the past several years, it’s hard to believe it is being used in good faith in Santa Rosa.
When those perpetrator files are kept secret, society suffers. This is no clearer than in the recent window where two clerics, Fr. David Ghiorso and Fr. Michael Harriman, were accused of child sexual abuse in lawsuits but were returned to ministry by their prelate, Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone. Both accused priests have ties to Santa Rosa. We are very concerned that these men may still pose a threat to young lives.
The simple fact is that yet another large institution is hiding behind bankruptcy rules in order to continue deceiving parents, parishioners, and the public they claim to serve. We believe that claims of indigence from the Diocese of Santa Rosa are very likely false and should be subject to an investigation to demonstrate this. Sadly, the federal government is currently asleep at the wheel and passively allowing this misuse of bankruptcy court. We hope that Attorney General Rob Bonta will look into this situation to see if any state laws are being broken or obfuscated. If there is nothing that can be done at the state level, we hope that he will use the power of his office to draw the attention of federal officials and demonstrate how bankruptcy court is being misused to the detriment of the entire country.
CONTACT: Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Coordinator ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Dan McNevin, SNAP Treasurer ([email protected], 415-341-6417) Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Manager, ([email protected], 267-261-0578) Zach Hiner, SNAP Executive Director (517-974-9009, [email protected])
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)