Minnesota diocese, facing abuse lawsuits, files for bankruptcy
Catholic News Agency March 7, 2017
Minneapolis, Minn., Mar 7, 2017 / 12:02 am (CNA/EWTN News).- Facing over one hundred lawsuits concerning sex abuse claims dating back to the 1950s, the Diocese of New Ulm has filed for bankruptcy and plans a reorganization. “I have come to the conclusion that financial reorganization is the fairest way to compensate victims and survivors of sexual abuse while continuing the good work of the Church in our communities,” Bishop John LeVoir of New Ulm said March 3.
“Filing for financial reorganization is not an effort to avoid responsibility. But rather, it is the only way the diocese can assure that available assets are fairly utilized to resolve all the pending sexual abuse claims against it,” the bishop said. “If we were to resolve the cases on a piecemeal basis, available diocesan assets could be exhausted in the first few cases, leaving nothing for the remaining claimants.”
There are a total of 101 lawsuits against the New Ulm diocese and some of its 75 parishes. The diocese, located in south-central Minnesota, serves about 60,000 Catholics. Most of the lawsuits concern incidents that allegedly took place from the 1950s through the 1970s. The suits were filed under a Minnesota law that temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for cases of sexual abuse of children. The diocese said no priests accused of abuse are presently in public ministry.
Bishop LeVoir acknowledged concerns about the reorganization. He said parishes, schools and other Catholic organizations are not part of the reorganization. The bishop described the reorganization as “a step towards the future... a future that I pray brings healing for victims and survivors as well as renewed hope for parishioners and our communities.”
He again voiced his “deepest apologies” to those sexually abused by clergy. “It takes great courage to come forward to share your experiences. You deserve not only our compassion but also fair compensation to help you in your healing,” Bishop LeVoir said. He added that abuse victims are in the diocese’s daily prayers.
The bishop cited “great strides” in efforts to provide safe environment for children, noting the diocese’s training for young people, volunteers and employees. “We must remain faithful to Jesus Christ and diligent in this work, so that this tragic chapter in our Church’s history is never repeated,” he said. “Guided by our faith in the Lord, let us move forward together as a church family, never forgetting the past but always hopeful for the future.” He prayed that God’s grace may bring “hope, healing and peace.”
The New Ulm diocese is the third in Minnesota to file for bankruptcy. Fourteen U.S. dioceses have declared bankruptcy, the Minneapolis Star-Tribune reports. Minnesota is one of four states to approve a temporary legal window to allow the filing of historic sex abuse claims.