Settlements and bankruptcies in Catholic sex abuse cases

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Settlements and bankruptcies in Catholic sex abuse cases have affected several American dioceses, whose compensation payments have totaled in the billions of dollars.

Estimates by Donald Cozzens[edit]

According to Donald Cozzens, "by the end of the mid 1990s, it was estimated that... more than half a billion dollars had been paid in jury awards, settlements and legal fees." This figure grew to about one billion dollars by 2002.[1] Roman Catholics spent $615 million on sex abuse cases in 2007.[citation needed]

Payments to victims[edit]

Date Diocese Charges made against Amount Number of Victims Comments Notes
1994, May Lincoln, NE $40,000 1
1997 Dallas, TX Rudolph Kos $31 million Originally $119.6 million via jury award. On appeal reduced. [2]
2003, Jun Louisville, KY $25.7 million 240 [3]
2003, Sep Boston, MA $85 million 552 [4]
2004, Jul 6 Portland, OR $53 million 100 (over) Filed for bankruptcy, Chapter 11.
2004, Sep Tucson, AZ $22.2 million Filed for bankruptcy, after reaching an agreement with its victims [5]
2004, Dec Spokane, WA $48 million (at least) Filed for bankruptcy, payment was a part (has to be approved by judge and victims) [6]
2005, Jan 3 Orange, CA 30 priests, 2 nuns, 11 other $100 million 87 In 1997, Bishop Tod Brown himself was accused of having sexually abused a 12-year-old boy in 1965 as pastor in Bakersfield. Church officials dismissed the claims and he denied the allegation. Eleuterio Ramos 11 cases, Siegfried Widera, who later committed suicide, 9 cases, 25 case uninvolved [7][8][9][10][11]
2006, Oct 10 Davenport, IA Lawrence Soens 15 Filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy, alleged victims were 15 students from 1960s who accused Bishop Soens who denied the accusations. [12][13]
2006, Dec Phoenix, AZ $100,000 1 [14]
2006, Dec Los Angeles, CA priests $60 million 45
2007 Los Angeles, CA Father Mark Falvey $16 million 9 ordered to pay [15]
2007, Jan 15 Charleston, SC priests $12 million many Bishop Robert J. Baker agreed to pay [16]
2007, Jul 16 Los Angeles, CA $660 million 508 (over) Archbishop Roger Mahony and the Los Angeles diocese apologized for abuses by priests describing them as "terrible sin and crime", after settling with over 508 alleged victims [17][18]
2007, Feb 27 San Diego, CA Robert Brom $198.1 million 144 Filed for Chapter 11 protection, hours before the first of about 150 lawsuits about childhood abuse was due to be heard — it became the largest diocese to seek bankruptcy protection. [19]
2008, Mar 7 Fairbanks, AK 130 Filed for bankruptcy due to monetary concerns over 130 lawsuits made by Alaska natives claiming to have been abused by priests, and other church employees


2008, May 29 Sacramento, CA Frs. Arthur & Mark Falvey $100,000 1 The Jesuit religious order paid $100,000 to a person who alleged he was raped and molested from age 7-11 at St Ignatius Parish, by identical twin brother priests Fr. Arthur Falvey of Sacramento, and Fr. Mark Falvey of Los Angeles


2009, Feb Memphis, TN Fr Juan Carlos Duran $2 million 1 Fr. Duran had previous sexual history with minors in St. Louis, Panama and Bolivia [22]
2009, Oct Savannah, GA Wayland Brown $4.24 million 1 [23]
2018, Sept New York, NY Angelo Serrano $27.5 million 4 Largest settlement against the Catholic Church and second largest individual sum paid [24]
Total $1.296 billion (over) 1,839



Citing monetary concerns arising from impending trials on sex abuse claims, the Archdiocese of Portland (Oregon) filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy on July 6, 2004, hours before two abuse trials were set to begin, becoming the first Roman Catholic diocese to file for bankruptcy. If granted, bankruptcy would mean pending and future lawsuits would be settled in federal bankruptcy court. The archdiocese had settled more than a hundred previous claims for a sum of over $53 million. The filing seeks to protect parish assets, school money and trust funds from abuse victims; the archdiocese's contention is that parish assets are not the archdiocese's assets. Plaintiffs in the cases against the archdiocese have argued that the Catholic Church is a single entity, and that the Vatican should be liable for any damages awarded in judgment of pending sexual abuse cases.


The Diocese of Tucson filed for bankruptcy in September 2004. The diocese reached an agreement with its victims, which the bankruptcy judge approved June 11, 2005, specifying terms that included allowing the diocese reorganization to continue in return for a $22.2 million settlement.[25]


In December 2004, the Diocese of Spokane, Washington agreed to pay at least $48 million as compensation to those abused by priests as part of its bankruptcy filing. This payout has to be agreed upon by victims and another judge.[26]


On October 10, 2006, the Diocese of Davenport filed for Chapter 11 protection.[27] The decision to file for bankruptcy was driven by many claims which focused on Bishop Lawrence Soens, who had been accused of fondling as many as 15 students during his tenure as priest and principal at Regina Catholic High School in Iowa City during the 1960s. Soens denies the allegations. A judge discharged one suit in October 2006.[28]

San Diego[edit]

On February 27, 2007, the Diocese of San Diego filed for Chapter 11 protection, hours before the first of about 150 lawsuits was due to be heard. San Diego became the largest diocese to postpone its legal problems in this way.[29]


On March 7, 2008, the Diocese of Fairbanks filed for bankruptcy after 130 civil suits filed by Alaska natives who claim to be abused by priests, and other church employees, beginning in the 1950s.[30]


On October 18, 2009, the Diocese of Wilmington filed for bankruptcy as the first of some eight lawsuits (of more than 100 potential) was scheduled to go to trial the next day.[31][32][33]


On January 4, 2011, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee announced that it would be filing for bankruptcy. The church was facing more than 23 lawsuits, and attempts to reach a mediated settlement with victims failed in December 2010. This came two days before the bishop was scheduled to be deposed about these cases, and after the church had refused to release the names or personnel records of the priests accused. The opposing attorney said that the bankruptcy filing was an attempt to delay turning over church records on the cases.

The Milwaukee archdiocese has already paid out over $29 million to settle 200 cases over the last 20 years. They said that these additional cases would cause hefty legal fees that the archdiocese could not afford. The archdiocese has assets of about $98.4 million, but $90 million of that is restricted for specific uses.[34]

Ecclesiastical Province of Saint Paul and Minneapolis[edit]

  • The Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization on January 17, 2015.[35][36][37][38]
  • The Diocese of Duluth filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on December 7, 2015.[39]
  • On March 3, 2017, the Diocese of New Ulm filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection following numerous lawsuits surrounding sex abuse by Catholic clergy in the area.[40] New Ulm follows the Duluth Diocese and the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, thus making Minnesota the first state in the United States of America to have three Roman Catholic dioceses file for bankruptcy protection.[40]


See also[edit]


  1. ^ Cozzens, Donald B. (2000). The changing face of the priesthood: A reflection on the priest's crisis of soul. Liturgical Press. p. 125.
  2. ^ Hogan, Susan (April 4, 2002). "Some Dallas churches not checking personnel. Catholic diocese policy regarded as a model; firm hired to gauge parishes' compliance". The Dallas Morning News.
  3. ^ Smith, Peter (April 4, 2002). "Archdiocese to pay victims $25.7 million for sex abuse". Courier-Journal. Louisville, Kentucky.
  4. ^ Boston archdiocese agrees to pay a record $85 million to victims of abuse Archived 2012-10-16 at the Wayback Machine US News and World Report
  5. ^ Rotstein, Arthur H. (September 21, 2005). "Tucson Diocese emerges from Chapter 11 protection". Associated Press. Retrieved February 8, 2012.
  6. ^ US Church offers abuse settlement BBC NEWS
  7. ^ California Diocese Settles Abuse Cases
  8. ^ "Orange Diocese to release files in $100 million settlement". The Tidings Online. Retrieved 2009-04-08.
  9. ^ Grace, Francis (2004-12-03). "California Diocese Settles Abuse Cases". CBS News. Retrieved 2009-04-09.
  10. ^ Orange County Weekly. Nailed? Bishop Tod Brown and His Undisclosed Molestation Accusation Archived 2008-07-26 at the Wayback Machine April 24, 2007
  11. ^ Los Angeles Times. ‘97 abuse claim named O.C. bishop September 14, 2007
  12. ^ "Iowa Diocese Files For Bankruptcy". CBS News. October 10, 2006.
  13. ^ Radio Iowa: Judge throws out Iowa City Regina priest suit Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  14. ^ "Catholic Diocese of Phoenix Settles Sex-Abuse Claim". Arizona Daily Star. December 27, 2006.
  15. ^ Spano, John (May 18, 2007). "Jesuits agree to sex case payout". Los Angeles Times. Retrieved February 8, 2012.
  16. ^
  17. ^
  18. ^ "LA cardinal offers abuse apology". BBC News. 2007-07-16. Retrieved 2008-03-08.
  19. ^ S.D. Catholic diocese files for bankruptcy
  20. ^
  21. ^
  22. ^
  23. ^ Diocese to pay $4M for abuse October 29, 2009
  24. ^
  25. ^ Tucson Diocese emerges from Chapter 11 protection
  26. ^ "US Church offers abuse settlement". BBC News. January 5, 2007. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
  27. ^ "Iowa Diocese Files For Bankruptcy". CBS News. October 10, 2006.
  28. ^ Radio Iowa: Judge throws out Iowa City Regina priest suit Archived 2007-09-27 at the Wayback Machine
  29. ^ > News > Metro - S.D. Catholic diocese files for bankruptcy
  30. ^ [1]
  31. ^ [2]
  32. ^ [3]
  33. ^ Urbina, Ian (October 20, 2009). "Delaware Diocese Files for Bankruptcy in Wake of Abuse Suits". The New York Times. Retrieved May 23, 2010.
  34. ^ Ramde, Dinesh (January 4, 2011). "Milwaukee archdiocese to seek bankruptcy protection in wake of pending sexual-abuse lawsuits". Minneapolis StarTribune. Retrieved January 5, 2011.
  35. ^ Hopfensperger, Jean (17 Jan 2015). "St. Paul Archdiocese declares bankruptcy, calling it 'fairest' recourse". Minneapolis Star-Tribune.
  36. ^ Corrigan, Tom (16 Jan 2015). "Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis Files for Bankruptcy". Wall Street Journal.
  37. ^ Bailey, David (16 Jan 2015). "Minnesota Catholic archdiocese files for bankruptcy protection". Reuters.
  38. ^ "St. Paul-Minneapolis Archdiocese files for bankruptcy in wake of sex abuse claims". Washington Post. 16 Jan 2015.
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