Washington, Sept 29 (EFE) – The Catholic Archdiocese of Baltimore, Maryland, the oldest in the United States, declared bankruptcy on Friday, two days before a new law allows lawsuits for sexual abuse regardless of the time elapsed since the crimes.
Archbishop William Lori said the decision “will allow the archdiocese to both fairly compensate victims and survivors of child sexual abuse and ensure that the local church can continue its mission and ministries.”
Lori noted that the archdiocese faces a large number of sexual abuse claims against minors that previously were not viable due to the statute of limitations.
Attorney Jeff Anderson of a law firm in St. Paul, Minnesota, who has represented victims of such abuse, said the decision “is designed to hide assets and hide the truth from survivors who were abused by members of the clergy.”
A new law passed by the Maryland General Assembly in April, taking effect on Sunday, October 1, eliminates the statute of limitations and allows abuse lawsuits to be filed without a time limit.
The Maryland Attorney General’s Office released a 456-page report identifying 158 clergy, teachers, seminarians and deacons who allegedly abused more than 600 minors in the Archdiocese of Baltimore since the 1940s.
With this decision, there are now more than 30 archdioceses that have sought protection under the bankruptcy law.
According to the organization Bishop Accountability, the US Catholic Church has paid out more than $3 billion in settlements since the 1980s.
The Catholic Church has faced legal challenges in recent decades from victims of clergy abuse around the world.
The largest settlement in the United States came in 2007, when the Archdiocese of Los Angeles, California, paid $600 million in settlements to 508 people who had accused priests of sexual abuse.
On August the archdiocese of San Francisco declared bankruptcy, joining the dioceses of Oakland and Santa Rosa in California, faced with the cost of compensation.
The Archdiocese of Baltimore includes the city of the same name and nine of Maryland’s 23 counties with 3.3 million inhabitants, of which about 525,500 are Catholic. EFE