The following table lists the 28 Catholic dioceses in the United States and its territories that have filed for bankruptcy due to clergy sexual abuse claims. Thus far, 15 of these dioceses have reached settlement agreements with victims and other claimants. These dioceses have paid nearly $900 million to more than 2,600 victims of sexual abuse through the settlement agreements.
|Diocese (State)||Date Filed||Status||Settlement||Victims|
|Portland Archdiocese (OR)||July 6, 2004||Confirmed||$74,400,000||173|
|Tucson Diocese (AZ)||September 20, 2004||Confirmed||$22,200,000||45|
|Spokane Diocese (WA)||December 6, 2004||Confirmed||$48,000,000||150|
|Davenport Diocese (IA)||October 10, 2006||Confirmed||$37,000,000||162|
|San Diego Diocese (CA)||February 27, 2007||Confirmed||$198,100,000||144|
|Fairbanks Diocese (AK)||March 1, 2008||Confirmed||$9,800,000||290|
|Wilmington Diocese (DE)||October 18, 2009||Confirmed||$77,400,000||148|
|Milwaukee Archdiocese (WI)||January 4, 2011||Confirmed||$21,000,000||350|
|Gallup Diocese (NM)||November 12, 2013||Confirmed||$22,000,000||57|
|Stockton Diocese (CA)||January 15, 2014||Confirmed||$15,000,000||34|
|Helena Diocese (MT)||January 31, 2014||Confirmed||$21,000,000||360|
|St. Paul and Minneapolis Archdiocese (MN)||January 16, 2015||Confirmed||$210,000,000||450|
|Duluth Diocese (MN)||December 7, 2015||Confirmed||$40,000,000||125|
|New Ulm Diocese (MN)||March 3, 2017||Confirmed||$34,000,000||93|
|Great Falls-Billings Diocese (MT)||March 31, 2017||Confirmed||$20,000,000||86|
|San Juan Archdiocese (Puerto Rico)||August 30, 2018||Pending||TBD||TBD|
|Winona-Rochester Diocese (MN)||November 30, 2018||Confirmed||$21,500,000||145|
|Santa Fe Archdiocese (NM)||November 30, 2019||Pending||TBD||TBD|
|Agana Archdiocese (Guam)||January 16, 2019||Pending||TBD||TBD|
|Rochester Diocese (NY)||September 12, 2019||Pending||TBD||TBD|
|Harrisburg Diocese (PA)||February 19, 2020||Pending||TBD||TBD|
|Buffalo Diocese (NY)||February 28, 2020||Pending||TBD||TBD|
|New Orleans Archdiocese (LA)||May 1, 2020||Pending||TBD||TBD|
|St. Cloud Diocese (MN)||June 15, 2020||Confirmed||$22,500,000||TBD|
|Syracuse Diocese (NY)||June 19, 2020||Pending||TBD||TBD|
|Rockville Centre Diocese (NY)||October 1, 2020||Pending||TBD||TBD|
|Camden Diocese (NJ)||October 1, 2020||Pending||TBD||TBD|
|Norwich Diocese (CT)||July 15, 2021||Pending||TBD||TBD|
If a case is labeled “pending,” the diocese and its claimants have not reached a settlement agreement.
Of the 28 Catholic dioceses that have filed for bankruptcy in the United States and its territories, 7 are archdioceses:
- Archdiocese of Guam
- Archdiocese of Milwaukee
- Archdiocese of New Orleans
- Archdiocese of Portland
- Archdiocese of Santa Fe
- Archdiocese of San Juan
- Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis
The following table lists the three Catholic religious orders that have filed for bankruptcy to settle sexual abuse claims: Oregon Province of the Jesuits, Christian Brothers of Ireland and Crosier Father & Brothers. Combined, these three orders have paid more than $200 million to compensate roughly 1,000 victims of sexual abuse by clergy members.
|Oregon Province of the Jesuits||February 17, 2009||Confirmed||$166,100,000||535|
|Christian Brothers of Ireland||April 28, 2011||Confirmed||$16,500,000||400|
|Crosier Father & Brothers||June 1, 2017||Confirmed||$25,500,000||43|
Prominent Catholic Dioceses That Have Filed For Bankruptcy
The Catholic dioceses listed in the table have filed for bankruptcy because of sexual abuse claims. However, each bankruptcy process differs depending on the circumstances of the individual diocese. Two dioceses with unique bankruptcy proceedings include the Duluth and Harrisburg Dioceses.
In November 2015, a court found the Diocese of Duluth responsible for 60% of an $8.1 million verdict in a priest abuse lawsuit. The following month, the diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
More than three years after filing for bankruptcy, the diocese announced a $40 million settlement. The settlement compensated 125 sexual abuse survivors.
Additionally, the bankruptcy settlement agreement included two non-monetary provisions:
- The Duluth Diocese was required to publicize the confidential personnel files of 37 priests credibly accused of abuse.
- The Duluth Diocese was required to develop new diocesan procedures to prevent future incidents of child sexual abuse.
What Happens When A Diocese Files For Bankruptcy?
Cases of bankruptcy are handled by the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
When a Catholic diocese files for bankruptcy, all civil lawsuits against the diocese are suspended, including clergy abuse lawsuits. The diocese’s assets are also partially frozen and reviewed by the bankruptcy court.
Yes, in order to get compensation from a Catholic diocese in bankruptcy proceedings, a victim must file a proof of claim with the bankruptcy court. If a victim’s proof of claim is accepted, he or she becomes a claimant in the bankruptcy case.
Federal judges handling the case will review the diocese’s assets. Once the deadline to file claims expires, the court will allocate money to claimants while ensuring the diocese retains enough money to continue operating.
How Catholic Bankruptcies Can Affect Victims Of Priest Abuse
How Catholic Bankruptcies Can Protect Dioceses
By its basic function, bankruptcy financially protects a diocese. The bankruptcy court will help a diocese organize its assets to pay its debts and emerge with enough money to maintain diocesan operations.
However, filing for bankruptcy can provide other benefits to Catholic dioceses, including:
- Reputation protection – In a civil lawsuit, a court may order a diocese to release sensitive documents that could negatively affect the diocese’s reputation. In some bankruptcy proceedings, a diocese could be protected from this type of negative public exposure.
- Ability to shield assets – Businesses can transfer assets prior to filing for bankruptcy. By doing so, unless the transfer is contested, a business can protect certain assets from the scrutiny of the bankruptcy court. Historically, some dioceses have transferred assets to parishes or trusts for protection. A recent Bloomberg article found Catholic dioceses in America shielded $2 billion from abuse victims by transferring assets prior to bankruptcy proceedings.
Catholic Church Bankruptcy FAQs
How Is Coronavirus Affecting Catholic Church Bankruptcies?
The ongoing pandemic is affecting Catholic Church bankruptcies in two ways:
- More Catholic dioceses may file for bankruptcy under the economic strain of the pandemic.
- With less revenue from mass collections, Catholic dioceses in bankruptcy proceedings may be faced with further financial hardships during the restructuring process.
Can You Sue A Bankrupt Diocese?
Yes, you can seek legal action against a bankrupt diocese. However, all legal action will go through the U.S. Bankruptcy Court.
How Many Catholic Dioceses Have Declared Bankruptcy?
28 Catholic dioceses have filed for bankruptcy. See the full list here >
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Meneo Group managing partner: Ron Meneo
Ron Meneo is the managing partner of The Meneo Law Group. With more than 40 years of experience, he represents clients across the country on a variety of complex legal matters, including personal injury due to institutional sexual abuse, unsafe pharmaceutical drugs and other practice areas. He is a recipient of Martindale-Hubbell’s prestigious AV® Preeminent Rating. He has also served as an editor and contributor for several legal journals.
BishopAccountability.org. (N.D.) Bankruptcy Protection in the Abuse Crisis.
Browning, D. (2019, May 2). Diocese of Duluth reaches $40 million settlement with sex abuse victims. Star Tribune.
DeJesus, I. (2019, August 14). Diocese of Harrisburg pays out $12 million to victims of clergy sex abuse. PennLive.
Diocese of Duluth. (2015, December 7). Diocese of Duluth files for bankruptcy.
Diocese of Harrisburg. (2020, February 14). Reorganization Information.
District of Minnesota. (2020, December 3). In re: The Diocese of St. Cloud, a Minnesota religious corporation [PDF]. Order Confirming Second Amended Joint Plan of Reorganization. United States Bankruptcy Court.
Eisenstadt, M. (2020, June 19). Syracuse Catholic Diocese’s move shifts sex abuse claims against priests to bankruptcy court. Syracuse.com.
Haigh, S. (2021, July 15). Connecticut diocese files for bankruptcy amid abuse claims. The Associated Press.
Henterly, E. (2017, January 10). Judge approves Stockton diocese bankruptcy plan. Recordnet.com.
PennLaw. (N.D.) Catholic Dioceses in Bankruptcy.
Risso, R. (2014, September 18). Diocese of Stockton. BishopAccountability.org.
Ruland, S. (2020, February 19). Catholic diocese in Pennsylvania files for bankruptcy protection. USA Today.
Saul, J. (2020, January 8). Catholic Church Shields $2 Billion in Assets to Limit Abuse Payouts. Bloomberg.
(2015, January 16). The archdiocese has filed for bankruptcy. Now what? MPRNews.
(2020, March 10). Judge OKs $34M sex abuse settlement with New Ulm Diocese. Associated Press.
(2020, June 16). Diocese of St. Cloud files for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as part of clergy sex abuse agreement. SC Times.
(2020, December 5). St. Cloud diocese bankruptcy plan approved to settle abuse claims. MPR News.
(2021, February 12). Diocese in Minnesota Diocese Settles Abuse Claims for $21.5M. Insurance Journal.