Parishes retain joint counsel in resolving abuse claims

| December 17, 2014 | 0 Comments
Father Kevin Finnegan

Father Kevin Finnegan

Leaders at parishes in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis are working together to share resources while trying to help those who claim to have been sexually abused as a minor by a priest.

Father Kevin Finnegan, pastor of Our Lady of Grace in Edina, and Father David Hennen, pastor of St. Elizabeth Ann Seton in Hastings, recently invited all pastors and parish business administrators to informational meetings to explore the possibility of joint legal representation in negotiations related to such claims.

“Whether the abuse happened five years ago or 50 years ago, it’s awful, and we have got to deal with it and confront it,” Father Finnegan said. “We have to figure out how to get survivors and victims the help they need and deserve while continuing to carry out the mission of the Church in our parishes.”

Since the lifting of the civil statute of limitations in Minnesota for victims of sexual abuse, nearly two dozen people have filed lawsuits against the archdiocese. In addition, several people have indicated they plan to sue the parishes where abuse is alleged to have occurred.

Under Minnesota law, the archdiocesan corporation is an independent religious corporation, as are each of the parishes. This means that any action that the archdiocese takes will be made on behalf of the archdiocesan corporation and will not include any of the parishes.

In an effort to protect the rights of the parishes and their separate property in the process of equitably resolving the clergy abuse claims, Our Lady of Grace, St. Elizabeth Anne Seton and several other local parishes have retained Mary Jo Jensen-Carter, a local attorney experienced in financial and bankruptcy matters.

Earlier this month, Father Finnegan and Father Hennen invited all parish leaders to informational meetings with Jensen-Carter. After meetings on Dec. 2 and 11, additional parish leaders indicated to Jensen-Carter that they are considering joint representation.

Father Hennen said, “Parish leaders who are participating in the joint representation say they have a stronger voice in the process and that they are saving money on legal costs in the long run by working with other parishes.”

As part of the process, Jensen-Carter is encouraging parishes where abuse occurred to search their historical records for insurance coverage during the times of abuse. According to Jensen-Carter, “Money from insurance claims can help the Catholic Church provide hope and healing in an equitable way to those harmed by priests.”

Archdiocesan officials are aware of the parishes’ actions and have encouraged the parishes to obtain independent representation.

Tags: , , ,

Category: Local News