Fresno Catholic bishop will file for bankruptcy in August; SNAP reacts

For Immediate Release: May 28, 2024

The Fresno Diocese announced today that it will file for bankruptcy in August.  SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, urges Bishop Joseph V. Brennan to reconsider this scorched earth legal tactic.

Bankruptcy is not the only way to achieve fair recoveries in all of the lawsuits against the Diocese. In the last window, universal agreements were reached between the Church and survivors and their attorneys, without the draconian consequences that bankruptcy will bring along with it.

In a bankruptcy, those who have filed lawsuits become “creditors.” The court will allow a certain period of time for other “creditors” – that is other victims -- to come forward. However, once the bankruptcy proceeds to its conclusion, anyone abused before the filing date who did not come forward by the bar date is forever barred from filing a lawsuit for damages. This would include those who do not yet remember their abuse, those who do not yet understand the impact it has had on their life, those who are not yet ready to speak out, and – most disturbingly -- those children who are too young to understand that they need to file a claim before the bar date.

Despite persistent claims from Church officials that child sexual abuse in Catholic institutions as a "thing of the past, this year SNAP has seen, on average, at least 4 news reports per month about the arrest of clergy or staffers for sexual abuse or misconduct. Whatever reforms have been made in the Diocese of Fresno, there is no sure-fire way to identify potential abusers, and predators are attracted to faith communities because people have their guard down. We can safely say that today’s Catholic children remain at risk of being hurt in their parishes or schools.  Most victims come forward between the ages of 50-70, but for those children being hurt in the Fresno Diocese today, this bankruptcy would deny them any chance of restitution for their life-long injuries.

California recently adopted a law completely removing the civil statute of limitations for child sex crimes going forward. Sadly, for those survivors abused in Catholic dioceses that see a bankruptcy to completion, the legislative intent of this reform -- to allow just compensation for the harm done to them and to learn who the perpetrators, and those who protected them, are -- will be thwarted for decades.

Protecting other boys and girls from being abused, and learning who made the decisions that resulted in a child predator working in their parish or school is important to survivors. However, the bankruptcy courts do not normally concern themselves with either issue. We are also concerned that important information will remain hidden from parishioners and the public because of this bankruptcy. We believe that churches and communities are more at risk when information about child predators remains secret.

This bankruptcy will have many advantages for Bishop Brennan. For those who suffered, or are suffering now, from child sex crimes committed in his Diocese, there is no upside to this cruel and, in our opinion, unjustified legal tactic. SNAP believes that children, not secrets and assets, are what need to be protected. This legal tactic, to us, shows that the Diocese of Fresno is indeed bankrupt, morally bankrupt.

CONTACT: Melanie Sakoda, SNAP Survivor Support Director ([email protected], 925-708-6175), Dan McNevin, SNAP Board of Directors Treasurer ([email protected], 415-341-6417), Joey Piscitelli, SNAP Northern California ([email protected], 925-262-3699), Dorothy Small, SNAP Sacramento Area Leader, ([email protected], 530-908-3676), Mike McDonnell, SNAP Communications Director ([email protected], 267-261-0578), Shaun Dougherty, SNAP Interim Executive Director ([email protected], 814- 341-8386)

(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for more than 35 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is



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