California Catholic Friars’ Bankruptcy Amid Growing Number of Sex Abuse Claims


The Franciscan Friars of California, a Roman Catholic organization dedicated to serving the needy, has found itself amid a distressing situation.

Filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy stems from the weight of approximately one hundred legal cases associated with historical allegations of sexual abuse dating back to the 1940s.

This decision, announced in a statement on Tuesday, arose from a significant alteration in California’s legal landscape in 2019. 

The change allowed survivors of abuse to bring forward complaints from decades past, surpassing the statute of limitations. Overwhelmed by the volume and period of these cases, the organization cited this legal shift as the primary reason for their bankruptcy filing.

The distressing reality revealed in their statement emphasized that all the claims date back at least 27 years, with some stretching as far back as the 1940s. Of the 94 filed claims, the majority were centered in California, involving friars, many of whom are no longer alive. Among the few living friars, all have been permanently removed from public ministry and are under strict third-party supervision.

Bankruptcy Trend Among Catholic Organizations

The Franciscan Friars of California, a Roman Catholic organization dedicated to serving the needy, has found itself amid a distressing situation.

The Franciscan Friars of California’s move to file for bankruptcy aligns them with a growing trend among Catholic organizations addressing similar challenges. San Francisco, Oakland, and Santa Rosa’s Catholic dioceses have already resorted to Chapter 11 Bankruptcy to confront sex abuse lawsuits.

Fr. David Gaa, the provincial minister of the Franciscan Friars, expressed deep regret over the necessity of this action. He emphasized the organization’s primary commitment to supporting abuse survivors, highlighting the decision’s rationale based on their limited financial capacity to cover extensive litigation costs and potential liabilities.

Fr. Gaa conveyed his profound sorrow for the grievous acts committed against abuse survivors, acknowledging the irreparable harm caused to those who once placed their trust in the friars’ care.

The bankruptcy filing represents a challenging yet essential step, allowing the court to address the multitude of abuse claims efficiently while striving for fairness and compassion in compensating the survivors. 

Fr. Gaa emphasized their dedication to ensuring just and equitable compensation for those who suffered at the hands of individuals within their organization.

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