March 25, 2005

Analysis: Dioceses ill-prepared for large sex abuse settlements

Monterey Herald

Associated Press

SAN FRANCISCO - Roman Catholic leaders say they want to do the right thing for clergy abuse victims, but church financial statements suggest some dioceses may not be able to afford many more payments like the $437,000 awarded Thursday in the first of more than 750 civil suits to go to trial in California.

Both the San Francisco and Oakland dioceses have been spending more cash than they've been collecting in recent years, which leaves them ill-prepared for a wave of potentially large judgments, according to audited financial statements for 2002 and 2003 reviewed by The Associated Press.

With about $56 million in cash and liquid assets, San Francisco could likely weather a moderate financial hit. The San Francisco diocese listed $99.7 million in total assets through June 2003, which includes such hard-to-sell assets as churches and other real estate.

The Oakland diocese is less financially secure, judging from its financial statements - it has about $39 million in easily accessible cash and assets and about $54 million in all.

Just how much each diocese can expect their insurers to pay isn't publicly known. Neither diocese would discuss its insurance coverage. But they may be particularly hard pressed if juries award punitive damages, which by law must be paid by the churches and not their insurers.

Posted by kshaw at March 25, 2005 05:51 PM