SNAP Responds to Attempts to Shield Assets in the Diocese of San Diego.
(For Immediate Release February 23, 2023)
In one of the least shocking stories we have seen in 2023, a Catholic diocese that recently announced its intention to file for bankruptcy to escape culpability for decades of enabling childhood sexual abuse has been accused in a separate lawsuit of shielding assets to artificially lower their appraisal value and pay out less money to those survivors. Something this disturbing should be shocking behavior from supposed faith leaders, but in reality, this move is all too common.
The Diocese of San Diego – which is currently being sued by more than 400 people who were raped or abused by San Diego clergy, brothers, nuns, and other staffers – has been accused in a new lawsuit of transferring nearly three hundred pieces of property in order to conceal the true assets of the Diocese. This move is one that many Catholic dioceses around the country have taken; recent examples include Albuquerque, Camden, Milwaukee, and Santa Fe. This is merely the latest example of Catholic leaders abusing bankruptcy laws for their own benefit, a darkly ironic statement given they are in this position in the first place for wantonly ignoring and enabling the sexual abuse of children.
We are tired of reading this same headline and bemoaning the same legal problem that experts have been pointing out for years. We are tired of seeing survivors finally getting a shot at justice before the rug is pulled out from under them, and they are once again forced into silence due to the rules of bankruptcy proceedings. We are frustrated seeing more old, white men hoarding money like Smaug the dragon instead of accepting responsibility for their myriad crimes and compensating the victims of those crimes as they deserve.
We cannot help but recognize the fact that the Catholic leadership has used increasingly creative methods to protect their money and reputations, whether through the creation and sale of insurance companies, applying for tax-free PPP loans without needing them, or the raiding of funds earmarked for the impoverished. In these ways, the Church double-dips the American taxpayer; first by paying no taxes of their own, second by abusing taxpayer-funded programs that were not meant for them, and third by shifting the economic burden created by the child sexual abuse they enabled to others. According to a study at the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health, the total economic burden from child sex crimes is approximately $9.3 billion per year and includes costs associated with health care, child welfare, special education, violence and crime, suicide, and survivor productivity losses. Child USA puts the lifetime economic impact of one case of child sexual abuse at $850,000.00, so given current Catholic victim counts in the US (link?), that means this burden is nearly $21 billion and growing by the day.
It is high time that the rules of the bankruptcy court are amended so that dioceses and archdioceses in the world’s richest institution can stop falsely claiming indigence when they really only care about silencing victims and ensuring their stories do not reach the faithful and the public. For too long, our federal legislators have sat on the sidelines while men in positions of power abuse that power to the detriment of children, parents, and communities nationwide. This is an issue that must be addressed federally, and it must be addressed now.
Contact: 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)