A Pennsylvania Catholic diocese on Wednesday filed for bankruptcy in the midst of facing several sexual abuse lawsuits against priests.
The Diocese of Harrisburg is the first Catholic diocese in the state to seek bankruptcy protection after a 2018 investigation revealed more than 300 priests had allegedly sexually abused more than 1,000 children in Pennsylvania.
The diocese’s attorney, Matthew Haverstick, said in a statement to The Hill that the filing was “an attempt to fairly balance all of the Diocese’s obligations — spiritual, moral and charitable.”
“The Diocese will emerge in a much stronger financial position,” he said.
The statute of limitations in Pennsylvania forbids almost all of the victims named in the 2018 report from suing alleged abusers, The Washington Post reported. But the state Superior Court recently ruled that some victims can sue dioceses, even if the statute prevents them from suing the alleged abusive priests.
This decision sparked several new lawsuits to be filed against the Harrisburg Diocese, which Haverstick told the Post was “something that we considered” when deciding to file for bankruptcy. The bankruptcy would freeze all lawsuits, and any compensation for the victims would become a part of those proceedings.
Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro (D) released a jury inquiry into six of the state's Catholic dioceses, including Harrisburg, in 2018. The report pushed other states around the country to begin investigations into their Catholic dioceses.
The diocese’s bankruptcy filing comes a day after the Boy Scouts of America also filed for bankruptcy.