The Diocese of Winona-Rochester is preparing to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
Matthew Willkom, communications director for the Diocese, said the decision is being made in cooperation with legal counsel representing the survivors of sexual abuse
“Bishop (John) Quinn believes this is the best path forward to bring healing and justice to survivors of past child sexual abuse by clergy in our Diocese,” Willkom said in an email.
Quinn wrote a letter announcing the decision that was included in the bulletins at Sunday Mass across the Diocese.
The bankruptcy will not impact the day-to-day operations of the Diocese, parishes and schools, Willkom said.
There are 17 men who served as priests in the Diocese of Winona, which changed its name to the Diocese of Winona-Rochester in March 2018, accused of sexual abuse.
Many of the claims came after 2013, when the Minnesota state Legislature passed the Minnesota Child Victims Act. The law lifted the statute of limitations, giving past victims of child sexual abuse three years to sue abusers and the organizations that employed them or directed their volunteer activities.
There were 115 claims of sexual abuse brought against the diocese during this time.
In September, the Minnesota Court of Appeals reversed in part a summary judgement dismissing claims of negligence by the diocese in the sexual abuse of a boy by a St. Mary’s Catholic Church priest in the 1960s. It was to head to a jury trial next year.
The diocese will be the fourth in Minnesota to file for bankruptcy. The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis is emerging from bankruptcy. The dioceses of Duluth and New Ulm also have filed for bankruptcy amid abuse claims. The St. Cloud diocese announced its intention to file in February but hasn’t done so.
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.