San Francisco Archdiocese Announces Chapter 11 Bankruptcy Filing

The prelate noted that San Francisco is one of a growing number of dioceses and archdioceses filing for Chapter 11 as a way to address abuse lawsuits.

Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone meets with people experiencing homelessness at St. Anthony’s Dining Hall in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood on Nov. 6, 2021.
Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone meets with people experiencing homelessness at St. Anthony’s Dining Hall in San Francisco's Tenderloin neighborhood on Nov. 6, 2021. (photo: Dennis Callahan)

San Francisco Archbishop Salvatore Cordileone on Monday announced that the archdiocese would be submitting a Chapter 11 bankruptcy filing, a development the prelate had earlier warned might come about as a result of numerous abuse filings against the bishopric.

Archbishop Cordileone earlier in August had warned that the filing was “very likely” in response to the “more than 500 civil lawsuits” alleging clerical sexual abuse filed against the archdiocese.

A Chapter 11 filing, the archbishop said at the time, would allow the archdiocese to deal with those cases “collectively rather than one at a time,” resulting in both a “faster resolution” of the crisis as well as “fair compensation” for the victims.

In an announcement posted on the archdiocese’s website, Archbishop Cordileone said that “after much reflection, prayer, and consultation with our financial and legal advisers,” the archdiocese has “filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization.”

“We believe the bankruptcy process is the best way to provide a compassionate and equitable solution for survivors of abuse,” the archbishop said, “while ensuring that we continue the vital ministries to the faithful and to the communities that rely on our services and charity.”

The prelate noted that San Francisco is one of a growing number of dioceses and archdioceses filing for Chapter 11 as a way to address abuse lawsuits. At least 13 dioceses are currently engaged in bankruptcy proceedings, while 18 have emerged from it.

Archbishop Cordileone said only the “legal entity” of the archdiocese itself would be covered by the bankruptcy filings. “Our parishes, schools, and other entities are not included in the filing,” he said. “Our mission will continue as it always has.”

The archbishop said offertory funds from individual parishes, as well as funds raised during annual appeals, would not be used to cover the costs of the settlements. “[T]hese funds, which you so generously donate, are collected for use by the stated ministries, which exclude legal settlements or related expenses,” he said.

Archbishop Cordileone noted that the “great majority” of abuse claims occurred “many decades ago,” with most of them involving “priests who are deceased or no longer in ministry.”

The archbishop urged the faithful to “join together on a daily basis in praying the rosary, spending an hour each week in adoration before the Blessed Sacrament, and fasting on Fridays for the survivors of abuse, for the mission of our archdiocese, and for the eradication of this shameful crime from our society as a whole.”

Among the other U.S. dioceses that have filed for bankruptcy this year include Oakland; Ogdensburg, New York; and Albany, New York.

The San Francisco Archdiocese covers about 2,300 miles of area in northern California; it lists about 440,000 Catholics in its boundaries.

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