Archbishop concedes the Baltimore archdiocese is considering bankruptcy; survivors say they'd oppose the move

Jonathan M. Pitts and Jean Marbella, Baltimore Sun on

Published in Religious News

BALTIMORE — When Teresa Lancaster learned the Archdiocese of Baltimore could file for bankruptcy in the face of an anticipated deluge of lawsuits over its history of child sexual abuse, the news only strengthened her resolve.

Lancaster, a victim of childhood sexual assault in the 1970s and an attorney based in Annapolis, is a prominent voice for fellow abuse survivors. She helped wage the political battles that got Maryland’s landmark Child Victims Act passed in April.

So, if America’s first and oldest Catholic diocese does file for Chapter 11 ― as a chain of internal emails obtained by The Baltimore Sun suggested it could and that Archbishop William E. Lori conceded in a Tuesday night letter to parishioners that he is considering — she said she and her allies will do whatever they can to halt the effort in its tracks.

“They’re going to be in for a hell of a fight,” she said Tuesday.

The Sun reported Friday that archdiocese officials were actively discussing that same day what actions to take when and if they filed in federal court for bankruptcy protection in light of a spate of lawsuits expected to be filed on or after Oct. 1 in Maryland.

In an email Lori sent late Tuesday to the area’s half-million Catholics, he acknowledged that one “approach under consideration” is “seeking relief through a bankruptcy reorganization.”


That would meet what he called the archdiocese’s two goals: “the healing of victim-survivors who have suffered so profoundly from the actions of some ministers of the Church” and continuing “the many ministries of the Archdiocese that provide for the spiritual, educational and social needs of countless people — Catholic and non-Catholic — across the state.”

Oct. 1 is the date the Child Victims Act — a law passed by the General Assembly and signed by Democratic Gov. Wes Moore in April — takes effect. The law removes constraints around when sexual abuse survivors can file lawsuits against those they say victimized them as children.

Christian Kendzierski, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said in an emailed statement Friday that church officials are “preparing for the impact of the new law” and “considering how to best respond to it.”

The archdiocese did not respond earlier Tuesday to The Sun’s requests for further comment. It released Lori’s letter, the first official comment by the archdiocese on the question of bankruptcy, after 6 p.m.


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