Do Rulings Mean This is the End of US Catholicism?

Two separate rulings on Friday paint a bleak picture for the US Catholic Church.

Mitchell Garabedian, a lawyer representing 55 of the abuse cases against the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Boston, is seen in a 2002 file photo. The Archdiocese has offered to settle about 200 lawsuits from the pedophile priest scandal there, offering average payments of $75,000, lawyers for the accusers said on Friday. (Brian Snyder/Reuters)

A Court in Portland ruled that the property of the arch-diocese may be used to settle abuse cases coming from individual parishes:

Bankruptcy Judge Elizabeth Perris ruled the Archdiocese of Portland, Oregon, not its parishes owns church assets.

The decision has dealt a major blow to the archdiocese’s efforts to protect church property from claims filed by alleged victims of priest sex abuse.

Portland declared itself bankrupt in July 2004, saying it could not meet the cost of abuse claim cases.

It was the first archdiocese in the US to take such action, which resulted in the suspension of the start of a civil trial of a priest accused of molesting more than 50 boys.

Archdiocese attorneys in Oregon had asked the federal bankruptcy court judge to shield churches and other assets as parish property the archdiocese was holding “for the benefit of others”.

But in her ruling on Friday, Judge Perris rejected the contention that church assets were being held in trust, preventing them from being used to settle lawsuit debts.

She also dismissed the archdiocese’s claim that it should be treated under church law, rather than federal law.

It is hard to see how the Catholic Church can survive in the US if this ruling stands.

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