Judge certifies all Catholics in Portland as defendants in bankruptcy case

.- A bankruptcy judge decided last week that the 389,000 Catholics of the Archdiocese of Portland are officially part of the class of defendants in the archdiocese's bankruptcy case, reported the Associated Press.

Originally, only the archdiocese was named as a defendant in the case. Parishioners will receive a letter in mid-August informing them of Judge Elizabeth Perris’ decision. A two-month ad campaign in local newspapers will also alert parishioners of the decision.

In July 2004, the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy after victims of sexual abuse asked for hundreds of millions of dollars in compensation. Currently, there are 249 claims filed against the archdiocese, and plaintiffs are seeking more than $400 million in damages.

However, parishioners intend to argue in court that they own the $600 million in assets and property of the parishes, not the archdiocese, reported the AP.

If they lose the argument, then the assets of the 124 parishes and three Catholic high schools in Western Oregon could be sold or mortgaged to pay the alleged victims' claims. Individual parishioners will not be named, and would not be held liable.

But if they win, the plaintiffs may have to settle for less. The archdiocese has said it has only about $19 million to itself.

Three parishioners and three priests have volunteered to represent the class. All class members will be invited to attend a hearing Oct. 12 in front of Judge Perris in Portland, at which they can object to or ask questions about their class status.

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