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Chrissie Cole
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Hours Before Trial, Diocese Files Bankruptcy

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San Diego Diocese files for bankruptcy protection.

The Roman Catholic Diocese of San Diego announced they are filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy only hours prior to a final settlement offer was rejected by attorneys for dozens of people who claim they were sexually abused by priests.

The filing drew abrupt accusations from victims’ advocates which will immediately halt more than 140 lawsuits targeting the diocese, including a trial that was set to go in San Diego that involved a longtime Inland priest. A Colorado woman alleges Monsignor Patrick of sexually abusing her in the early 1970s.

Legal experts say a bankruptcy filing will not stop litigation against the San Bernardino Diocese, named in 17 or more pending lawsuits, including some that are targeting San Diego Diocese.

It is uncertain if the filing will unravel San Diego Diocese’s pledge to make good the San Bernardino Diocese in cases that accuse clergy sexual misconduct before 1978, when the San Diego Diocese managed Inland parishes.

San Bernardino Diocese has no plans to file bankruptcy, said a spokesman for the 1.2 million member Inland diocese.

“We have a comparatively low number of cases against our diocese … as compared to San Diego, at more than 140, which means our total potential liabilities are much less,” Lincoln said. “We believe we have sufficient insurance coverage to handle pending claims.”

In a pastoral letter issued Tuesday, San Diego Bishop Robert Brom said the church “put money on the table that would have stretched our financial capability to the limit, but demands were made which exceeded the financial resources of both the diocese and our insurance carrier.”

Those suing the diocese and victims’ advocates criticized the 11th-hour bankruptcy as a tactic aimed at further delaying the long-stalled lawsuits while also preventing public disclosure of the role church leaders played in protecting priests accused of sexual misconduct.

“This is a morally bankrupt move by a self-serving bishop who’s afraid to face tough questions about coddling and concealing pedophile priests, said Mary Grant, western regional director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, a nationwide victims’ group.