(FARGO) Valley News Live Update: Response from the Diocese
RE: Settlement of Lawsuits & Letter to the Faithful from Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner
CROOKSTON, MINNESOTA, July 17, 2019 – The Diocese of Crookston and victims and survivors of clergy sexual abuse have reached a $5,000,000.00 settlement agreement. The Diocese is thankful mediation has concluded. Although victims can never be fully compensated for their suffering, it is hopeful these settlements offer healing and justice.
15 lawsuits for sexual abuse claims were filed between April 2016 and May 2017 as a result of the Minnesota Child Victims Act. The legislation lifted the statute of limitations on abuse cases in Minnesota, opening a three-year window that allowed victims an opportunity to file civil claims.
Most of the costs associated with the settlement came through insurance proceeds. The Diocese of Crookston paid $1,550,000.00; most of this amount was from the property sales of Camp Corbett (Big Elbow Lake, Becker County, MN) in 2018 and Holy Spirit Newman Center (Bemidji, MN) in 2016, as well as two non-restricted estate gifts in 2017. Also, in preparation for settlement, two open staff positions were left unfilled. In meeting the settlement, the Diocese did not have to finance any portion through loans.
Because of the settlement, the Diocese of Crookston has been able to avoid bankruptcy protection. All other dioceses in Minnesota have filed or announced their intent to file for financial reorganization in recent years. The Diocese will not experience lay-offs and can steadfastly continue its mission of serving God’s people in the 14 Northwest counties of Minnesota.
The Diocese of Crookston is committed to transparency and accountability in response to the clerical sexual abuse crisis and takes seriously accusations of sexual misconduct by clergy. If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual misconduct on the part of a priest, deacon, or individual representing the Diocese of Crookston, its parishes, or its schools, please contact the diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator at 218-281-7895.
Attorneys for fifteen survivors of alleged child sexual abuse by priests in the Diocese of Crookston have settled their lawsuits against the Diocese. In addition to compensation, the 15 survivors compelled the Diocese of Crookston to be more transparent through non-economic settlement provisions.
As part of the settlement, the names and secret files of clergy accused of sexually abusing children in the Diocese of Crookston will be made public at a later date. In addition, depositions taken in the litigation of clergy child sex abuse cases against the Diocese will be made public.
Attorney Jeff Anderson says “The settlement brings some closure for these courageous survivors and is a step in the right direction for the Diocese of Crookston.” He added that "by coming forward and holding the Diocese accountable, these survivors are taking back power that was stolen from them when they were abused as children. This settlement gives them a measure of justice while avoiding more prolonged litigation. It will help advance healing for survivors and child protection in the Diocese.”
The news release indicated that the Diocese of Crookston avoids filing Chapter 11 bankruptcy, which other Minnesota dioceses have done after facing dozens of clergy sexual abuse lawsuits.
The 15 survivors were abused by priests in the Diocese of Crookston. Most of the 15 survivors brought their lawsuits as a result of the Minnesota Child Victims Act, which was enacted in 2013 and gave survivors whose cases were otherwise barred by the statute of limitations a three-year window until May 25, 2016, to bring lawsuits against their abusers and the institutions that enabled them. Since the Child Victims Act went into effect in May 2013, at least four other child sexual abuse lawsuits against the Diocese of Crookston were settled.
The 15 survivors’ lawsuits alleged child sexual abuse by clergy including Fr. James Bernauer; Fr. James Porter; Fr. Patrick Sullivan; Fr. Stanley Bourassa; Fr. James Vincent Fitzgerald, OMI; and Msgr. Roger Grundhaus. The survivors were abused between approximately 1969 and 2009.