New Ulm diocese reaches $34m settlement with victims of clergy sex abuse

The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New Ulm Minnesota Credit J Stephen Conn via Flickr CC BY NC 20 The Cathedral of the Holy Trinity in New Ulm, Minn. | J. Stephen Conn via Flickr (CC BY-NC 2.0).

The Diocese of New Ulm announced Wednesday it has reached a $34 million settlement with victims of clerical sexual abuse.

"The settlement represents our commitment to finding a fair resolution for victims and survivors of sexual abuse while continuing our ministry for those we serve throughout south and west central Minnesota," Bishop John LeVoir stated June 26.

According to the AP, there are 93 victims party to the settlement.

Jeff Anderson, the attroney representing many of the survivors, said that $8 million of the settlement comes from the diocese and its parishes, while the remaining $26 million is from insurance coverage.

The New Ulm diocese had filed for bankruptcy in March 2017 in the face of 101 lawsuits regarding sex abuse claims dating back to the 1950s.

Most of the lawsuits concern incidents that allegedly took place from the 1950s through the 1970s. The suits were filed under a 2013 Minnesota law that temporarily lifted the statute of limitations for cases of sexual abuse of children.

Approval of the settlement will resolve the diocese's bankruptcy.

The diocese will file the reorganization plan to the bankruptcy court, which will be reviewed by a judge. The settlement plan must then be voted on for approval by the claimants, and a trust from which payments will be made will be established. The diocese said this should be completed by the end of the year.

Bishop LeVoir said the diocese "remains committed to preventing sexual abuse, holding accountable those clergy who are credibly accused of abuse and helping victims and survivors find healing."

"For more than 15 years, all priests and deacons, diocesan staff, parish and Catholic school employees, as well as volunteers having regular or unsupervised interaction with minors have been required to meet safe environment requirements," which include adherence to a code of conduct, undergoing a background check, and participation in sexual abuse awareness and prevention training, he said.

The bishop added that "the diocese has committed to disclosing the names of all clergy with credible claims of abuse made against them" and that it "follows strict standards for determining suitability of clergy serving in the diocese, starting during the seminary formation process and including verifying the credentials of priests visiting from other dioceses or from religious orders."

He said the diocese "promptly contacts law enforcement to report any allegations it receives regarding sexual misconduct by clergy or others involved in ministry within the geographic area the diocese serves."

Bishop LeVoir also invited victims to contact the diocese for counseling or other assistance in healing, and invited them to meet with him as part of their healing process if they wish.

"I again extend my deepest apologies on behalf of the Diocese of New Ulm to victims and survivors of clergy sexual abuse," he concluded. "Victims and survivors have courageously worked to raise awareness about the tragedy of childhood sexual abuse and how we must address it. I hope and pray that today's settlement helps victims and survivors on their healing journey."

Several more Minnesota dioceses filed bankruptcy over sex abuse claims, including Saint Paul and Minneapolis, Duluth, and Winona-Rochester. The Diocese of Saint Cloud has said it will do so.

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