Archdiocese: number of claims ‘sobering’

| August 5, 2015 | 0 Comments

A day after the Aug. 3 deadline to file claims against the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis as part of its Reorganization proceedings, the count totaled 669, with 407 of those being claims of sexual abuse by clergy.

While the numbers are “sobering,” they’re not inconsistent with those of most institutions that have faced a similar crisis, said Charlie Rogers, an attorney representing the archdiocese. He noted that the time period spans 75 years. In 2013, the Minnesota State Legislature passed a law lifting the statute of limitations on claims of child sexual abuse through May 25, 2016. In April, Judge Robert Kressel, who is overseeing the archdiocese’s Reorganization process, approved the Aug. 3 deadline of filing claims against the archdiocese.

The next steps for the archdiocese will involve evaluating the proofs of claim in detail and then meeting with victims’ counsel to begin negotiations. The archdiocese also will work with more than 14 insurance carriers, 187 parishes and their insurers, and numerous religious orders and schools.

“It’s a complex process. It will be a lot of hard work, but we’re prepared,” Rogers said. “Now that the Aug. 3 deadline has passed, it’s our job to roll up our sleeves and work diligently and efficiently to do the most for the most, and do what’s fair for all.”

Rogers couldn’t estimate a timeline for a resolution. On Aug. 4, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee announced that it reached a $21 million settlement with victims of clergy sexual abuse, hopefully paving the way to resolve its nearly five-year Reorganization before the year’s end. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis filed for Reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code on Jan. 15 and was ordered into mediation soon after.

Archbishop Bernard Hebda, the archdiocese’s apostolic administrator, said now that the deadline has passed, the archdiocese will be able to focus more on pastoral care.

“I’ve already been impressed to hear about outreach the archdiocese has undertaken for victims, and that has to continue,” said Archbishop Hebda, who was appointed apostolic administrator after Archbishop John Nienstedt resigned June 15.

In addition to the individual pastoral care provided in parishes, the archdiocese is promoting a “Grief to Grace” retreat later this month that focuses on healing the wounds of abuse. An archdiocesan sponsored support group for survivors of clergy sexual abuse is slated to begin in September. Information about both programs can be found on the archdiocese’s website.

Related: Archdiocese to sponsor support group for victims/survivors

Although the deadline to file a claim against the archdiocese as part of its Reorganization has passed, a representative will be designated to assist potential late claimants — such as minors or those who were serving overseas in the military — who weren’t aware of the Aug. 3 deadline. Rogers said a portion of the funds from the archdiocese’s insurance carriers and what the archdiocese contributes will be placed in a pool and reserved for future claims.

“It really is a process that enables us to do the ministry that we need to do,” Archbishop Hebda said. “It’s complex and it’s costly, but it’s an investment in the ministry.”

“We’re going to get through this,” Rogers added. “The Catholic Church in the long run will be stronger for it. We’re all dedicated to moving this forward as efficiently and as quickly as possible.”

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