The Catholic Church continues to grapple with the wave of abuse allegations and lawsuits that have been coming to light in the last several years.
In the United States alone, there have been highly publicized stories about clerical abuse in Boston, Illinois, Minnesota, Pennsylvania, Washington DC, and much more.
Now, in the state of New York, the Child Victims Act has been passed just recently. The Child Victims Act will allow child victims to seek prosecution against their abuser until the age of 55 in civil cases (the previous limit was 23). For criminal cases, victims can seek prosecution until they turn 28.
With the new law greatly increasing the statute of limitations in New York, it is expected that a wave of lawsuits will wash over the state's eight archdioceses. It may already be starting. A new suit was filed on Friday, February 22nd and is believed to be among the first filed under this new law.
That one victim in the suit is seeking $300 million in damages.
For comparison, the eight Catholic archdioceses of New York paid at least $228 million over the last two years for 1,260 sexual abuse claims.
Even if the woman in the $300 million lawsuit fails to win that amount, this signals what could be a dramatic shift in the scale and scope of the trials the church in New York will be facing.
More than 400 priests and others associated with the church have been accused of abuse in New York state over the last 25 years.
The investigation conducted by the state attorney general has made private church records available to investigators, which will likely reveal more cases of abuse and efforts by church leaders to protect the abusive priests.
With the impending wave of lawsuits potentially leading to hundreds of millions of dollars (or more) in damages, the eight archdioceses in New York could be facing bankruptcy in the not-too-distant future.
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Archdiocese of Guam both announced plans for bankruptcy in recent years due to the payouts for abuse lawsuits.
A 2015 article estimated that between 1950 and August of 2015, the Catholic Church, in the United States alone, paid out $4 billion in settlements for abuse.
That was before the recent massive report in Pennsylvania, or this new law in New York, or the settlement in Minnesota. It sure seems likely that it will not take another 65 years before the church pays out another $4 billion.
I suspect we will see a lot of churches in New York go up for sale in the next few years.