SAN DIEGO– The Catholic Diocese of San Diego announced Friday, it is considering filing for bankruptcy in order to settle hundreds of claims of sexual abuse.

Pastors at all parishes plan to hand their parishioners a letter informing them of the possible plan to file for bankruptcy.

“It was totally unnecessary for them to do that. We’ve been in mediation with them for almost two years,” said Irwin Zalkin, a senior partner of Zalkin Law Firm who represents 120 survivors in lawsuits against the Diocese of San Diego.

The allegations are a result of Assembly Bill (AB) 218 which became law in 2019. The legislation expanded the statute of limitations for sexual abuse victims and provided a three-year window for the revival of new claims.

The Diocese said they received 400 lawsuits for allegations of sexual abuse by priests and other diocese members since AB 218.

The Diocese estimates it would cost them more than $500 million to settle all the claims, which is why the Diocese said they are considering filing for bankruptcy to be able to compensate equally.

“Even if only half of these cases were true it still would be unaffordable under the current situation,” said Kevin Heckery, communications director for the Catholic Diocese of San Diego.

“No, I don’t buy it at all. In fact, when they are telling people they don’t have the money to pay these claims that’s not true,” Zalkin said.

Zalkin said he plans to argue in court the Diocese of San Diego has hundreds of millions of dollars in assets.

The Diocese said their earliest claim dates from 1945, with 70% of claims alleging abuse happening between 1945 to 1975.

The Diocese said there are no claims against anyone currently in ministry, however, only four of the accused are still alive and have since been stripped of their duties.

Heckery said the Diocese owes it to survivors.

“I think that they’re dealing with pain that they shouldn’t have to deal with because of us. We have a duty to help survivors as much as we can. There is nothing about bankruptcy that prevents that,” Heckery said.

“For them to come out and say they care is insulting,” Zalkin said. “This is not to right a wrong, this is to protect their assets, that’s what bankruptcy is.”

Heckery said the cardinal is responsible for making the decision, which could come in late spring or early summer.