“The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis says it has agreed to pay a $210 million settlement to 450 victims of clergy sexual abuse, one of the largest payouts to date in the U.S. over the Catholic church’s priest abuse scandal.
The settlement, which is expected to be approved by a federal judge overseeing the case, resolves a years-long dispute and is being carried out as part of the Twin Cities archdiocese’s bankruptcy reorganization.
Diocese officials say that about $40 million will be paid by the archdiocese, while the other $170 million will come from the archdiocese’s insurers.
“I recognize that the abuse stole so much from you — your childhood, your innocence, your safety, your ability to trust, and in many cases your faith,” said Archbishop Bernard Hebda, in announcing the settlement. “Relationships with family and friends, relationships in your parishes and communities were harmed, lives were forever changed. The church let you down. I am very sorry.”
The settlement comes after the Minnesota Legislature in 2013 opened a three-year window in the statute of limitations that allowed alleged victims of prior abuse to sue for damages. That measure resulted in hundreds of claims being lodged against the archdiocese, which filed for bankruptcy in 2015.
Last month, a federal appeals court affirmed a December 2017 decision by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Kressel that the parishes and other nonprofit entities were independent, and their assets could not be exposed in the bankruptcy case. The judge in his December ruling rejected the competing reorganization plans filed by the archdiocese and a creditors’ committee and ordered both sides back into mediation.
On Thursday, several who said they were abused by priests they had entrusted expressed a measure of relief over the settlement, while also noting that the trauma of abuse has left an indelible mark on their lives.
“There have been so many times that what was done to me has interfered with the joy of being a mother,” said Marie Mielke, a sexual abuse survivor who says she was groomed by a priest she when she was just 12 years old.
Eighteen U.S. dioceses and religious orders have filed for bankruptcy protection during the ongoing sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic church, according to the web site BishopAccountability.org, which tracks sexual abuse cases. A 19th, the Diocese of St. Cloud in Minnesota, announced in February that it plans to file for bankruptcy protection.
Jeff Anderson, an attorney representing the victims, said the archdiocese listed 91 Twin Cities clergy who were credibly accused of sexual abuse.
“This has been a long day coming,” said Jim Keenan, a victim who also served as chairman of the Creditors Committee in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis bankruptcy case. “It’s a triumph. I realize that the work is not yet done. There’s lots of work around the world to be done.””