NEW ULM - A settlement with 93 claimants who were sexually abused as children by clergy and others in the Diocese of New Ulm has been reached in the diocese's bankruptcy case.
"This is a big day for the survivors," said Jeff Anderson, attorney for many of the claimants, in a news release announcing the settlement.
The diocese will pay the 93 claimants around $34 million, according to the agreement between the diocese and the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors. The committee was made up of survivors of clergy sexual abuse.
Approximately $8 million of the settlement will come directly from the diocese, while the remaining will be funded by the diocese's insurance carriers.
The Rev. John M. LeVoir, bishop of the Diocese of New Ulm, issued a statement of apology Wednesday to victims and survivors of clergy sexual abuse.
"Victims and survivors have courageously worked to raise awareness about the tragedy of childhood sexual abuse and how we must address it," he said. "I hope and pray that today's settlement helps victims and survivors on their healing journey."
The bishop also thanked those involved in the process of working toward a fair settlement.
"Most of all, I wish to thank claimants for their courage in coming forward to tell their stories, their perseverance in pursuing justice and their patience during this very thorough process," he said.
The diocese previously agreed to release the names of the priests who have been credibly accused.
The Diocese of New Ulm, which includes Catholic parishes in over 75 communities in west central Minnesota, including Willmar and the surrounding area, filed for bankruptcy in March 2017. This occurred after the diocese received dozens of claims of clergy abusing children over the years.
The next step in the process is to submit a disclosure statement and plan of reorganization to the United States Bankruptcy Court, which must approve those documents before the settlement agreement goes to the claimants for approval. If the claimants approve the agreement, the bankruptcy court could then give final approval for the agreement to be put into place. All the claims will then be reviewed to determine award amounts.
"Throughout this process, all the survivors have demonstrated tremendous courage and patiences," Anderson said in his news release. "They have advanced the child protection movement and made their communities safer for kids."
LeVoir in his statement said the diocese "remains committed to preventing sexual abuse, holding accountable those who are credibly accused of abuse and helping victims and survivors find healing."
For more than 15 years, all priests and deacons, diocesan staff, parish and Catholic school employees, as well as volunteers having regular or unsupervised interaction with minors, have been required to meet safe environment requirements. The requirements include adherence to a code of conduct, a criminal background check and participation in sexual abuse awareness and prevention training.