From U.S. News's Jay Tolson:
It wasn't the first Roman Catholic diocese in the United States to file for Chapter 11 protection when faced by a staggering number of sex-abuse lawsuits. But the 1 million-member San Diego diocese is so far the largest to do so. Last night's eleventh-hour filing raises questions about whether this strategy will soon become the rule rather than the exception for other financially strapped dioceses facing suits for alleged child-abuse episodes dating back, in many instances, several decades. And if it does, will it further erode confidence in a church hierarchy that many say still refuses to take responsibility for a scandal that it tried to cover up?
Whatever happens elsewhere, plaintiffs in the San Diego case are already accusing Bishop Robert Brom of bad faith. (See his letter to parishioners here). They say that he took the action after his pretrial settlement offers were rejected as sketchy and unclear. They also charge that the filing only heightens suspicions of a diocese that destroyed records of its criminal priests, the only U.S. diocese known to have done so.
More after the jump.
Etc.: A Pontiff's First Year, on USNews.com
The bankruptcy filing effectively suspends several scheduled trials, but a judge could order them to proceed in the months ahead. Meanwhile, the bishop is likely to cling to his argument that fiscal necessity alone, and not a desire to cover up messy facts, prompted his decision to declare bunkruptcy. But there is little doubt that activists in the church will contrast the actions of Brom with those of Boston's archbishop, Sean O'Malley, who in his previous Fall River diocese settled more than 100 sex-abuse cases and instituted a zero-tolerance policy.
Perhaps the moral is already clear: It takes more than an accountant to clean out an Augean stable.