Do Not Be Afraid?
By Jennifer Haselberger
April 1, 2016
That is the message the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis is trying to communicate in advance of an avalanche of lawsuits about to be filed against parishes. As was mentioned here in an earlier post, in the absence of a mediated agreement regarding the resolution of victims' claims, attorneys representing victims of sexual abuse by clergy have been planning to file lawsuits against individual parishes as a means of preserving their clients' claims prior to the May 2016 deadline established by the Minnesota Child Victims Act.
The Archdiocese is anticipating that the suits against parishes will be filed in the next two to six weeks, and so it has begun to prepare pastors and parish staff to respond. Parishioners of impacted parishes can expect to receive letters from Archbishop Hebda and others this weekend, and parish staff have been given 'talking points' for responding to calls from angry or worried parishioners. Parishes that are sued have been advised to consult an attorney, meaning that significant costs could accrue to parishes as a result of the lawsuits.
Significantly, MPR reported yesterday that the Archdiocese told a federal bankruptcy judge that it hopes to file a reorganization plan by the end of May, but that would be after the deadline. Moreover, attorneys for victims made it clear that the Archdiocese has not shared the proposed plan with nor secured the support of the unsecured creditors committee, which represents victims of sexual abuse.
Had a reorganization plan been agreed to, it is unlikely that victims' attorneys would be planning to file lawsuits against the parishes.