SPOKANE, Wash. -- The Roman Catholic Diocese of Spokane, unable to settle sexual abuse lawsuits, will file for bankruptcy at the end of the month, the bishop said yesterday.
In a recent letter to parishioners, Bishop William Skylstad said the total amount of sex abuse claims ''is in the tens of millions of dollars and far exceeds the net worth of the diocese."
Spokane is one of three Catholic dioceses forced into bankruptcy stemming from an abuse scandal that rocked the church in 2002.
The Archdiocese of Portland, Ore., filed for bankruptcy protection in July, the same week a lawsuit was scheduled for trial, and the Diocese of Tucson filed in September, saying it needed court protection because of legal costs from the cases.
The Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in Spokane will allow the diocese to continue functioning while protecting people who were sexually abused by priests in the past, Skylstad said.
Skylstad, who is scheduled to assume the presidency of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on Monday, said filing for bankruptcy will suspend litigation and its costs on several sexual abuse lawsuits against the diocese.
Advocates for abuse victims immediately denounced the diocese's announcement. ''Without a shred of proof, Bishop Skylstad is asking us to believe he's struggling financially and must stop the truth from being told and the victims from healing by seeking bankruptcy protection," said Michael Ross, a local leader of Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.