SANTA BARBARA, Calif. - Tim Hale, a Santa Barbara attorney with Nye, Stirling, Hale, Miller & Sweet and dedicated to justice for survivors of childhood clergy sex abuse, said the Franciscan Friars of California - which is connected to Old Mission Santa Barbara - is expected to file for bankruptcy by the end of this year.
"What it means to the survivors is really a loss of opportunity to one, be heard and to tell their stories and two, to confront not only their abuser but also the men who covered up and concealed their crimes. And that's what the bankruptcy process takes away from survivors of childhood sexual abuse."
Hale has spent the past 25 years representing survivors across the country and here at home. He puts the number of local survivors at roughly 90.
"And I think you can probably take that number and at least double if not triple it because most people never speak about what happened to them and come forward."
Hale said the majority of the cases are linked to an institutional cover-up. He said he is seeing the bankruptcy trend happening within the Catholic church across the country and, within other organizations that face similar lawsuits, including the Boy Scouts of America.
"I hope that the faithful don't look at this and believe that the Franciscans are going bankrupt or broke. That is not what this is about. This is legal strategy. This is an attempt to avoid accountability."
He cited one of the biggest frustrations linked to the religious institution declaring bankruptcy:
"We are not going to get the opportunity, for instance, to hold the Franciscan Provincial Minister, Father Gaa, accountable for the fact that there are men who are accused of childhood sexual abuse who are still alive and who are still in ministry. We have found evidence that they still have access to children, are in public ministry as opposed to having been reported to law enforcement and being placed under limitations that allow them access to children. The civil lawsuits would have allowed us to address this with him. The bankruptcy process is going to shut that down. That's a shame and both scary for today's children."
Hale said he remains dedicated to helping survivors of childhood sex abuse, nationwide.
"I give a ton of credit to the survivors who have fought this hard to come forward and I hope they don't lose hope. We will do everything we can through the bankruptcy process to make this information public."
Your NewsChannel team reached out to the Franciscan Friars of California but have not heard back by the time of this post.