.- Bishop Gerald F. Kicanas of Tucson (Arizona) announced on Wednesday that he will make a decision about whether the Diocese will file for bankruptcy protection before a scheduled Sept. 15 sexual abuse trial.
During a meeting with the “Tucson Citizen” editorial board, Bishop Kicanas said that the trial scheduled in Yuma County Superior Court “is looming on the horizon,” and that bankruptcy protection is looking more like the best and only option, given lack of progress in mediating a settlement of 19 pending clergy sexual abuse lawsuits and the prospect of more.
Negotiations between the diocese and plaintiffs in the pending lawsuits stalled earlier in June. The diocese already owes $3 million payment due by 2007 as a consequence of the 2002 settlement with 10 men victimized as children by four local clergy.
Kicanas, who became the sixth Bishop of Tucson on March 7, 2003, explained that the diocese's long-term financial stability is in jeopardy because it is not self-sufficient and its resources are inadequate to carry on its pastoral mission without help from other church subsidies.
Kicanas told the Tucson Citizen that the diocese “had to borrow a great deal of money” to pay for the first settlements. Besides, most properties that could be sold are of little substantive value in remote communities.
The filing for Chapter 11 would allow the church to continue to operate but would subject its finances to court scrutiny.
“Some people feel that Chapter 11 is shirking the duty of the Church," he said. "I don't see it that way. I think it's the very best way that we can exercise a response to those who have been hurt,” he concluded.