The Diocese of Cariboo is expected to approve a plan to wind itself up during a synod Oct. 13 to 15.
The diocese is being bankrupted by residential school lawsuits. It was found jointly liable last year with the national church for 60 per cent of an undisclosed award to a man abused at a residential school in Lytton, B.C. more than 30 years ago.
Another eight plaintiffs who were abused by the same former child-care worker, Derek Clarke, return to court in a case expected to wrap up this fall. There’s no way the diocese will be able to pay its share of damages; it can’t even afford legal representation in court anymore.
Bishop Jim Cruickshank says the diocese’s lawyers have been wonderful, asking it to pay as much of its legal bills as it can. Of the eight plaintiffs, seven set out to sue the federal government only; it was the government cross-claiming that added the church and diocese to the suits.
“We’ve never challenged the fact the plaintiffs were abused,” the bishop said. “In fact, several of the ones taking us to court now were the ones I paid for counselling for them for a period of time.”
The bishop said the diocese has been working on a windup plan so it will have some control over what happens rather than “simply sit on our hands and wait for a receiver to walk in and take over our operation.”
The diocese plans to argue in court that it holds church property in trust for parishes, an argument, which if accepted, would mean parish property would not be seized to pay bills. The former Diocese of Cariboo would likely become an episcopal jurisdiction under Archbishop David Crawley, who oversees the diocese as the area’s metropolitan.
Archbishop Crawley said the technicalities are being investigated now.
“The legal entity of the Diocese of Cariboo continues,” he said. “It passes to the bankruptcy trustees. The operations don’t continue.”
To provide continued operation, the 30 congregations must have a bishop. If there is no bishop, the metropolitan is responsible, he said.
Bishop Jim Cruickshank would be out of a job, a prospect that does not worry him.
“Every bishop in every period of history has to deal with something,” he said. “As my spiritual director says, at least it’s not the Inquisition. I’m not losing my head, I’m just losing my job,” he said with a chuckle.
“It’s not a career, it’s a calling and I’ll be called to something at the end of this.”
The bishop said he’s more concerned about the diocese and about the prospect of bankruptcy for the national church. “The situation is far more serious at the national church. We’re going to have a terrible time without the kind of ministry received from the national church. Going through all the stuff I’m going through right now has indicated how much I rely on the national church.”