"Berwick St. Joseph's Catholic Church" by Pete unseth / CC BY-SA 4.0

Pennsylvania Catholic diocese, facing new sexual abuse lawsuits, files for bankruptcy

Feb 21, 2020

By Julie Zauzmer

The Diocese of Harrisburg on Wednesday became the first Catholic diocese to seek bankruptcy protection in Pennsylvania, a state that led the nation in investigating sexual abuse by priests when it published a landmark report almost two years ago.

While Pennsylvania law prevents victims of long-ago abuse from suing the alleged perpetrators, a recent appellate court decision has created a path for victims to sue their dioceses. An attorney for the Harrisburg Diocese said it has been the target of several lawsuits since that opinion, while adding he did not blame abuse victims for the diocese’s financial instability.

“The diocese was in need of right-sizing,” said the attorney, Matthew Haverstick of the Kleinbard law firm. “Bankruptcy is really the responsible way to do it, so it can continue to do all the things it does, spiritually and charitably.”

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