Feb 19, 2020 - Politics & Policy

Pennsylvania diocese files for bankruptcy amid sexual abuse lawsuits

People at church.

Photo: Jeff Swensen/Getty Images

The Diocese of Harrisburg became the first in Pennsylvania to seek bankruptcy protection on Wednesday, the Washington Post reports.

Why it matters: Pennsylvania influenced a series of investigations into Catholic dioceses across the country when state Attorney General Josh Shapiro released a grand jury inquiry into six dioceses, including Harrisburg, in mid-2018.

  • Though state law prohibits victims of past abuse from suing their alleged perpetrators, a 2019 appellate court decision allowed victims to sue their dioceses beyond the statute of limitations.

What they're saying: "An attorney for the Harrisburg Diocese said it has been the target of several lawsuits since that opinion, while adding that he did not blame abuse victims for the diocese’s financial instability," per the Post.

Details: Bankruptcy proceedings freeze lawsuits in the 15 counties the diocese covers, and victims would be compensated as part of the bankruptcy judgment, per the Post.

  • Dioceses across the state paid almost $84 million to 564 sexual abuse victims as of December, per an AP review.

The big picture: 20 Catholic dioceses across the country have filed for bankruptcy protection since 2004, per BishopAccountability.org.

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