Dozens of Parishes Prepare for Lawsuits
By Maria Wiering
April 12, 2016
A number of parishes implicated in child sex abuse claims should prepare for lawsuits related to those allegations to be filed before mid-May, according to the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
In a March 30 letter to members of parishes implicated in sexual abuse claims filed against the archdiocese, Archbishop-designate Bernard Hebda called the anticipated lawsuits “a normal part of the litigation process” and urged Catholics to heed Scripture and “do not be afraid.”
Archdiocesan officials have anticipated the suits since it filed for Reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code in January 2015 in response to mounting claims of child sexual abuse by clergy. The archdiocese is aiming to resolve claims against individual parishes as part of its bankruptcy proceedings, but encourages parishes that are sued to consult their own attorneys.
“All parties involved — including dozens of insurance carriers that issued policies over the past six decades — are participating in mediation with the hope of settling the more than 400 sexual abuse claims that have been brought against the archdiocese and that presumably will soon be filed against parishes arising from the same facts,” Archbishop Hebda wrote.
Pastors and parish leaders at affected parishes were encouraged to provide information on the potential lawsuits to parishioners at Masses April 2-3.
Archdiocesan officials said many parishes were already preparing for the potential suits. The suits are related to the 2013 Child Victims Act, which lifted the statute of limitations in Minnesota through May 25 for the filing of civil lawsuits of child sex abuse.
Most parishes with claims against them have insurance coverage for the claims, and their insurance companies have been notified, said Joseph Kueppers, the archdiocese’s chancellor for civil affairs, in a March 30 letter to parish leaders at affected parishes. Kueppers emphasized that the sexual abuse claims are not new. “In many cases, the claim dates back 20 to 30 years or more,” he said.
The possible lawsuits are not expected to affect normal parish operations, including capital campaigns, according to the archdiocese.
“Be assured that your pastor and parish leaders are working with archdiocesan staff to keep you informed and updated on any developments,” Archbishop Hebda said in the letter to parishioners. “It seems that the most important thing we can do now is pray for a just resolution to these claims and for all of those involved. In these first days of the Easter season, I ask for your prayers and support for all victims of sexual abuse and their families.”