Minnesota dioceses sign abuse settlements, pledge to protect children
Catholic News Agency Oct. 22, 2014
Two dioceses in Minnesota have reached undisclosed financial settlements with a victim of clergy abuse, promising to implement and abide by policies intended to protect children, and to report perpetrators. “I am deeply saddened and profoundly sorry for the pain suffered by victims, survivors and their families,” Archbishop John Nienstedt of Saint Paul and Minneapolis said Oct. 13. He added that the agreement is a “significant step closer” to help survivors heal and “to restore trust with our clergy and faithful.” He said that the archdiocese’s agreement with an abuse victim is “a historic moment in our efforts to assure the safety of children and vulnerable adults.” Bishop John Quinn of Winona said his diocese is “ashamed of the horrific crimes” that former priest Thomas Adamson perpetuated against children. “We are committed to ensuring the safety of the children entrusted to our care in our schools and in our parishes,” he said Oct. 13. Bishop Quinn said that the diocese has committed to child protection protocols as part of the settlement which will “further help to ensure the safety of all of God’s children.” Both the settlements, from the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis and from the Diocese of Winona, concerned a lawsuit from a victim of Adamson. Adamson admitted to the sexual molestation of at least ten teens while working as a priest in both dioceses. He said he attempted to abuse even more, the NBC affiliate KARE11 reports. Although the abuse of the plaintiff took place in the 1970s, the lawsuit could proceed because of a change to state law in 2013. The change expanded a three-year window in the state’s statute of limitations for sex abuse lawsuits, the Associated Press says. The lawsuits alleged that Catholic leaders created a public nuisance by failing to warn parishioners about Adamson’s sexual abuse. The legal agreement with the plaintiff and the plaintiff’s attorney Jeff Anderson means the dioceses will abide by a set of child protection protocols developed by diocesan officials and by Anderson’s law firm, Jeff Anderson and Associates. Archbishop Nienstedt said the agreement will strengthen collaboration to address sex abuse. “I pray that this local Church will continue to be inspired by the Word of God to respond to the needs of those who have been harmed and seek healing as we move forward toward a new day for this archdiocese as well as for our local community.” Some of the archdiocese’s existing policies are already more extensive than the settlement’s protocols; these will remain in place. The agreement requires “ongoing” public disclosure of substantiated allegations of sex abuse. It bars the dioceses from conducting their own internal investigations of abuse and them from interfering with law enforcement investigations. The agreement also requires the two dioceses to work to secure a signed statement from every member of the clergy in each diocese affirming that they have not committed sexual abuse of a minor. The clergy must also affirm that they have no knowledge of abuse of a minor by another priest of the archdiocese or employee of the archdiocese that has not been reported to law enforcement and to the archdiocese. The protocol exempts knowledge of abuse learned in the confessional. Bishop Quinn said most of the protocols were previously adopted and implemented by the Winona diocese. He said the agreement “demonstrates our resolve and conviction to take every possible step to ensure the safety of all God’s children.” The bishop said the Diocese of Winona is committed to providing support and healing for “those who have been tragically abused by clergy.” “We encourage anyone that has been abused recently or in the past to report the abuse to civil authorities.” Representatives of both dioceses said that they could declare bankruptcy due to future abuse-related litigation or legal settlements.