Sex Abuse Lawsuit Settlements Could Bankrupt Diocese of Stockton

STOCKTON –

Bishop Stephen Blaire of Stockton Catholic Diocese didn’t dodge the numbers—the result of up to four lawsuits filed by victims of sexual abuse.

“Over seven million, maybe ten million,” Blaire said.

That’s on top of about 18 million dollars already paid to victims. Some money came at the hands of the notorious Oliver O’Grady and Michael Kelly, both convicted of abusing children.

The relatively small diocese covering six rural counties is making its $5 million budget.

“It’s just that we do not have any funds for these future lawsuits,” Blaire said.

Practicing Catholic Rosa Gaxiola is concerned that so much of her donations are being redirected to abuse victims.

“It does hurt a lot of efforts that the Catholic Church supports in helping the poor,” said Gaxiola.

Elysse Brown doesn’t begrudge victims for getting compensated even though it’s a blow to the diocese.

“It’s so terrible what they went through and the victims went through. Unfortunately that ends up being in a monetary way,” said Brown.

Brown says the Church will survive this crisis as it has always done.

“Christ dying on the cross was the worst of it and it will only get better from here,” Brown said.

Critics of the diocese say bankruptcy is a negotiating scheme and a ploy to cheat victims of their due.

Although attorneys for some of the plaintiffs don’t believe the diocese is entirely sincere, church officials say this is very much a case of financial survival.

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