The Catholic diocese in Spokane, Washington will become the third in the nation to file for bankruptcy in the face of lawsuits brought by people who were sexually abused by priests. Spokane Bishop William Skylstad plans to file for bankruptcy protection by November 29, which will stall 19 lawsuits brought by 58 plaintiffs, according to the Associated Press . Skylstad is expected to succeed Bishop Wilton Gregory as president of the US Conference of Catholic Bishops on Monday, according to the Seattle Post-Intelligencer.
“The tragedy behind the bankruptcy filing is that at the last minute – three weeks from trial – Spokane files and delays those victims’ right to the courthouse,” said attorney Mike Pfau, who is representing two dozen men who were allegedly abused by Spokane priest Patrick O’Donnell, according to the Post-Intelligencer. Some 125 people have claimed they were sexually abused by priests in the Spokane diocese.
Spokane follows the dioceses in Portland, Oregon and Tucson, Arizona in filing for bankruptcy. “The common denominator in these bankruptcies is that they are filed when the bishop is on the verge of a potentially embarrassing court case packed with potentially damaging documents that could be made public,” David Clohessy of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) told USA Today. “This is not about being fair. This is about protecting their secrets and assets.”