Bankruptcy was necessary to ensure victims of sexual abuse by clergy members are able to get justice and heal, Bishop John Quinn of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Winona-Rochester said Tuesday.
The diocese announced plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy to its parishioners over the weekend and officially released a statement Tuesday, making it the fourth in Minnesota to do so.
According to Quinn, the decision came after years of discussion.
“We knew that there would be a number of claims,” he said. “The issue was always: How do we satisfy those claims?”
Quinn said filing for Chapter 11 was the only way to guarantee the full cooperation of its insurance carriers, a necessary step for the diocese to provide compensation for the victims.
Chapter 11 is a specific type of bankruptcy that allows an organization to restructure so it can pay its debts. It puts on hold an organization’s assets but allows the organization to continue operations.
Quinn believes the Child Victims Act, which lifted the statute of limitations for victims for child sexual abuse for three years, played a significant role in the diocese’s decision to file bankruptcy.
In the wake of the bill’s passing, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and the dioceses of Duluth and New Ulm have filed for bankruptcy amid claims of abuse. The St. Cloud diocese announced its intention to file in February but has yet to do so.
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“I would think it is probably the primary cause because it has allowed for a look back for those who have been injured in the past to be able to file claims,” Quinn said.
Since the act was passed, 17 men who served as priests in the Diocese of Winona — now the Diocese of Winona-Rochester — have been accused of sexual abuse.
However, Quinn dismissed any connection between the decision to file for Chapter 11 and the Minnesota Court of Appeals decision in September to reverse in part a summary judgment dismissing claims of negligence made by John Doe 121.
Doe alleged that he was sexually abused by the Rev. Richard Hatch, a priest at St. Mary’s in 1962 and 1963. That case is headed for a jury trial next year.
“I don’t believe it had anything to do with it. We have been discussing this long before that decision,” he said. “It is really based on the sole desire to assist the victims and to provide compensation and healing for those who have been injured by sexual abuse particularly by clergy.”
Despite the stigma that has shrouded the Catholic Church in recent years, Quinn remains confident the diocese will move forward.
“I know the desire on the part of our Catholic community to bring healing and justice to the victims is at the heart of who we are as Catholics,” he said.