For several years now, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has been butting heads in court with victims of sexual abuse at the hands of priests. The story gets very convoluted, but in 2016, the Archdiocese offered to settle “hundreds of child sex abuse” claims for $132 million.
That wasn’t enough, said lawyers representing nearly 450 victims, adding that the Church was concealing their ability to pay much more.
They were right, and on Thursday, the Archdiocese announced a new settlement worth over $210 million.
Victims’ attorney Jeff Anderson said the money, a total of $210,290,724, will go into a pot to pay survivors, with the amount for each survivor to be determined.
Anderson said a formal reorganization plan will now be submitted to a bankruptcy judge for approval, and then it will be sent to the victims for a vote. Anderson expected they will readily approve it.
According to the website BishopAccountability.org, which tracks clergy sex abuse cases, this is the largest total payout among the Roman Catholic archdioceses and dioceses that have filed for bankruptcy protection. But the largest total payout of any kind came in 2007, when the Archdiocese of Los Angeles settled clergy sex abuse cases with 508 victims for $660 million.
That’s an average payout of about $467,000 per victim.
While most of the money will be covered by the Church’s insurance, nearly $40 million “will come from parishes, the archdiocese, a pension fund and real estate sales.”
May this victory spur even more lawsuits against the Catholic Church. It’s about time they paid the price for all the damage they’ve done.
The Archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in 2015, and its leader said the settlement would allow all sides to move forward.
In a news conference on Thursday, Archbishop Bernard Hebda said the settlement “avoids further litigation and expense, and that allows the local church to carry on with its mission of spreading and living the gospel of Jesus Christ.”
He also thanked the survivors who told their stories. “I recognize that the abuse stole so much from you, your childhood, your innocence, your safety, your ability to trust, and in many cases, your faith,” he said.
“The church let you down,” he added. “I’m very sorry.”
Quite the understatement, but at least he’s repentant for the crimes of people who worked for his Archdiocese. After the victims spent decades suffering under the weight of abuse, it’s good to see the Church punished in a meaningful way.
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