Minnesota Catholic Order Reach $25m Child Sex Abuse Settlement, But Only After Inserting Legal Loophole Protecting Against Possible Future Lawsuits

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Winona Daily News

“A $25 million settlement between the Crosier religious order and victims of clergy sexual abuse was approved by a U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge Thursday, becoming the first such settlement adopted in Minnesota.

An objection filed last week by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis was withdrawn after the parties added language protecting the archdiocese from possible future lawsuits involving Crosier clergy.

The Crosiers, the abuse victims and their attorneys attributed the swift settlement to a spirit of cooperation and respect that shaped settlement discussions.

 “This is a model that should be followed by any cases involving abuse,” said an emotional Ben Januschka, a member of the survivors’ creditors committee, who sat in the front row of the courtroom at Thursday’s hearing. “Now the healing can begin.”

Sixty-seven abuse victims filed claims in bankruptcy court against the Phoenix-based religious order, which has a community in the Minnesota town of Onamia.

Most of the sex abuse occurred between the 1960s and 1980s. It involved teenage boys at the Crosiers’ boarding school and young altar boys who served at the Holy Cross Church next door. Crosier priests also served in parishes across Minnesota.

The religious order will pay $5.7 million, with the remaining $19.7 million paid by its insurer, Hartford Insurance. The names of 20 clergy credibly accused of sexually abusing children are listed on the Crosier website.

Rev. Thomas Enneking, the religious superior for the Crosier order, apologized from the witness stand on Thursday for the trauma inflicted on the children under Crosier care.

“It’s bittersweet,” he said after the hearing. “I know that the suffering of survivors continues, that something was lost in their own life experiences that can never be recaptured.”

At the same time, Enneking said he felt a sense of pride.

“We’ve been able to work with all the parties and kept things moving forward in an efficient and cost-saving way so the bulk (of the money) can go to survivors,” he said.

The settlement was unusual in that it was reached by the religious order, its insurer and the abuse victims before the Crosiers filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection last year.

In addition to the Crosiers, four Minnesota Catholic dioceses have filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection following a flood of clergy abuse claims. They are negotiating settlements with victims and their attorneys.

Victims’ attorney Jeff Anderson, whose law firm represents clients in all those cases, said the Crosier case stands out because of the “honesty, transparency and respect shown for survivors.”

“They did not try to hide their assets, did not try to hide their ability to pay,” he said. “We had disagreements, but they were worked out. … This is a good day.””

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