In documents released this week, Bishop John Quinn said that the Catholic Diocese of Winona (Minnesota) may go into bankruptcy depending on how many people sue them for past sexual abuse cases. The “problem” stems from a state law that allows victims of child sexual abuse to file lawsuits against the criminals even if the incidents took place a long time ago. The window to file suits for old cases doesn’t close until the middle of 2016:
The Winona diocese “has received several claims of negligence upon other offenders since the statute’s inception, anticipates several more, and anticipates eventually bankruptcy as a result of these lawsuits,” Quinn wrote [in a letter to the Vatican].
“Both attorneys and elements within the public media have exhibited unwavering resolve in their efforts to further defame alleged offenders, foster discredit in church officials, and instill common anger and mistrust toward the Universal Church,” he added.
Diocese spokesman Joel Hennessy said the diocese hasn’t decided whether to file for bankruptcy because it’s unclear how many people may sue in the remaining 21 months the law allows.
Riiiight. All these lawsuits are being filed because people just hate the Church, not because the priests involved did anything wrong.
Shouldn’t it be more disturbing that they don’t even know whether bankruptcy is in their future because there’s no telling how many victims will come forward?
This letter, by the way, was one of many documents that came to light only recently because of an ongoing lawsuit against Rev. Thomas Adamson. (You may remember that Adamson’s boss at the time, Bishop Robert J. Carlson, said in a deposition earlier this summer that he wasn’t sure whether raping a child was a crime back in the 70s.)
The Winona diocese, if it filed for bankruptcy, would be the tenth such diocese to do so. And it’s not what attorney Jeff Anderson wants for his clients:
“It would be disturbing if that’s the first choice they make, instead of trying to reach out to the survivors and say, ‘Let us try to do the right thing with what we have and the insurance with have,’ Anderson said. “If they go to that route without trying to work with us, it will just be another legal maneuver to avoid transparency and accountability.”
Even with bankruptcy, victims would be able to file claims against the Church, but there’s no telling what they would get even if successful.