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Fresno Catholic Diocese Will File Bankruptcy Because of Sexual Abuse Claims: Bishop Brennan
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By Bill McEwen, News Director
Published 4 weeks ago on
May 28, 2024

Bishop Joseph Brennan announced Tuesday May 28, 2024, that the Catholic Diocese of Fresno will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August because of mounting claims of child sexual abuse by clergy. (GV Wire File)

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Bishop Joseph Brennan announced Tuesday afternoon that the Catholic Diocese of Fresno will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in August “to ensure that each claim (of clergy sexual abuse) is resolved as fairly as possible and handled with equitable compassion.”

“When I hear how many lives were affected by clergy sexual abuse, my heart truly breaks. I imagine the faithful may be dismayed by the news of our serious financial situation, but I ask them to let go of their distress and turn their hearts towards the victims of abuse.” — Bishop Joseph Brennan, Catholic Diocese of Fresno

Brennan stated in an “Open Letter to the Faithful” that the diocese faces 154 claims of abuse by clergy. That total, the bishop said, grew following the enactment of a state law opening a three-year window for victims to bring forward previously barred or expired claims of child sexual abuse by clergy.

“After considering how to best obtain those goals, the Diocese has decided that filing for Chapter 11 bankruptcy is the most suitable option. Requesting a court-supervised reorganization ensures all victims are compensated fairly and equitably and Diocesan resources are not depleted by the first few cases that complete the litigation or settlement process,” Brennan wrote.

“When I hear how many lives were affected by clergy sexual abuse, my heart truly breaks. I imagine the faithful may be dismayed by the news of our serious financial situation, but I ask them to let go of their distress and turn their hearts towards the victims of abuse.”

Abuse Costs California Catholic Dioceses Billions of Dollars

Catholic dioceses in San Francisco, Sacramento, and Oakland either filed or announced plans to file for bankruptcy last year.

Five years ago, the Fresno diocese hired retired FBI agent and high-ranking bureau executive Kathleen McChesney to lead a team reviewing all clergy files going back nearly 100 years. The goal was to compile a list of priests who had been credibly accused of improper conduct with minors, according to the diocese.

In addition, at that time, the California Attorney General’s Office announced that it was reviewing how all 12 Catholic dioceses in California handled allegations of child sexual abuse.

Catholic dioceses in California paid an estimated $1.5 billion to thousands of sexual abuse victims between 2000 and 2019.

Here is a link to Frequently Asked Questions provided by the diocese.

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Bill McEwen,
News Director
Bill McEwen is news director and columnist for GV Wire. He joined GV Wire in August 2017 after 37 years at The Fresno Bee. With The Bee, he served as Opinion Editor, City Hall reporter, Metro columnist, sports columnist and sports editor through the years. His work has been frequently honored by the California Newspapers Publishers Association, including authoring first-place editorials in 2015 and 2016. Bill and his wife, Karen, are proud parents of two adult sons, and they have two grandsons. You can contact Bill at 559-492-4031 or at Send an Email

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