Lawsuits from sex abuse cases have driven the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St Paul and Minneapolis in Minnesota to file for bankruptcy.
The move was announced on Friday by Archbishop John Nienstedt, who said that it was “the fairest and most helpful recourse for those victims/survivors who have made claims against us”. He added that “Reorganisation will allow the finite resources of the Archdiocese to be distributed equitably among all victims/survivors. It will also permit the Archdiocese to provide essential services required to continue its mission within this 12-county district.”
The archdiocese is facing more than 20 lawsuits arising from previous failures to protect children and young people in its care from sexual abuse. Its liabilities could amount to as much as $100 million, while its assets may be only one tenth of that. The bankruptcy petition will freeze lawsuits against the church and protect it from creditors while it develops a reorganisation plan. It also halts three abuse trials scheduled to begin on January 26.
The move is not expected to affect directly the archdiocese’s 200 Catholic parishes or schools, which are incorporated separately.
Nienstedt said: “It must be pointed out that this action will not in any way avoid our responsibilities to those who have been affected by clerical sexual abuse. This is not an attempt to silence victims or deny them justice in court. On the contrary, we want to respond positively in compensating them for their suffering. Plaintiffs’ attorneys and I are in agreement that priority should be given to providing resources for the victims/survivors.”
One lawyer for victims, Jeff Anderson, said that the bankruptcy filing was “necessary”, and said that it would not stop the disclosure of information about abuse cases. However, another attorney, Patrick Noaker, said: “The process of bankruptcy is not going to make kids safer. I don’t think it’s any accident that they filed a week before this trial was going to start.”
The archbishop said that he and others had been “devastated” by revelations from those who had been abused, saying: “I deeply regret their suffering. I hope to do all I can to assist them toward healing.”
He concluded: “We still have a long journey ahead as we restore trust through humility, competency and transparency, in order to respond with compassion to all those who have been hurt, to continue to atone for sins that have been committed, and to foster healing. The filing for reorganisation marks another important step on our way forward as a local Church.”
The archdiocese is the 12th in the US to file for bankruptcy following abuse cases that have cost the Church millions of dollars.
Source: Christian Today
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