The Diocese of Spokane may file for bankruptcy protection if attorneys do not reach a settlement with 28 alleged victims of clergy sex abuse, said Bishop William Skylstad.
The bishop sent a letter sent to parishioners warning of the potential bankruptcy last week.
The diocese is expected to meet this week with the alleged victims of former priest Patrick O'Donnell, who has admitted to sexually abusing boys. Negotiations are scheduled to last four days.
If an agreement is not reached, the cases could go to trial. The bishop said in his letter that bankruptcy protection would provide another option to "bring fairness, justice and equity to the victims and enable the diocese to continue its ministry and mission."
The first of five lawsuits, alleging that the diocese did not do enough to protect children from O’Donnell, is scheduled for trial Nov. 29. O'Donnell, 62, worked as a priest for the diocese until he was removed in 1986.
Between 1985 and January 2003, the Diocese of Spokane settled six lawsuits involving eight victims, with an average settlement of $60,000. Money for those settlements came from the diocese's insurance company or the accused priests. The diocese settled five more claims since then.
The diocese now faces at least 19 lawsuits, involving 58 plaintiffs, who have accused nine diocesan priests and two Jesuits.