Duluth Diocese files for bankruptcy

| December 7, 2015 | 0 Comments
Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, Duluth, Minnesota.

Cathedral of Our Lady of the Rosary, Duluth, Minnesota.

Following an $8.4 million judgment to a victim of sex abuse by a priest and the inability to negotiate a settlement that would assist all victims of clergy sexual abuse in its 10-county area, the Catholic Diocese of Duluth Dec. 7 filed for protection in order to reorganize under Chapter 11 of the bankruptcy code.

Father James Bissonette, vicar general, in a statement on behalf of the diocese, said, “Given the magnitude of the verdict, the diocese was left with no choice but to file for reorganization. The decision to file today safeguards the limited assets of the diocese and will ensure that the resources of the diocese can be shared justly with all victims, while allowing the day-to-day operation of the work of the Church to continue.”

The diocese said it will continue good faith efforts to reach a resolution that would assist all abuse victims and protect the Church’s mission during the bankruptcy process.

See the story with the full statement of the Duluth Diocese here.

Duluth Bishop Paul Sirba mentioned the recent court judgment in his column in the December issue of the Duluth diocesan newspaper. Regarding sexual abuse, he wrote: “We must always be vigilant, and we are constantly learning and improving at these efforts. This is the work of our lifetime. The church is providing best practices for our society, where the problem of sexual abuse, neglect, human trafficking and violence is only growing worse.

“The ‘look back’ legislation in our state and its lifting of the statute of limitations for this crime opens up the entire 125 years of our existence as a diocese to civil litigation. The great majority of the victims are predominantly men and women in their 50s, 60s and 70s today. Their wounds are deep, but please God they will find hope and healing for themselves and their families.

“Recent litigation awarded $8.4 million to one victim. While we never contested that the crime happened, we did argue that the negligence in this case fell predominantly with the Oblates of Mary Immaculate, a religious community responsible for the priest, and not with the Diocese of Duluth, as we had no knowledge of the abuse in this case. Our legal team and insurance company are recommending an appeal of the verdict. . . . We have been transparent with our diocesan financial statements, so you know our annual operating budget is around $3 million. We have insurance and assets, but not in the amounts that this settlement and other pending lawsuits would demand.”


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