Window closes for child sex abuse claims

On May 25, 2016, the deadline to file claims under the Minnesota Child Victims Act passed.

For three years, victims and survivors of child sexual abuse had been encouraged to come forward and file a claim for restitution, no matter how long ago the abuse occurred.

By the end of the day on May 25, 101 people had made claims against the Diocese of New Ulm and parishes within the diocese. Of the 75 parishes in the diocese, 28 are named in claims.

These claims report abuse from several decades ago involving priests who are now either deceased or removed from public ministry. Almost all of the claims report abuse during the 1960s and 1970s.

“We’ve been humbled in listening to the experience of victims and survivors who have come forward. They have shown great courage,” said Bishop John M. LeVoir of the Diocese of New Ulm. “The diocese is committed to helping protect children and young people from abuse and to helping victims and survivors in healing.

“The release of names and the diocese’s efforts since then demonstrate a willingness by the Diocese of New Ulm to be transparent about clergy who have abused children,” said attorney Jeff Anderson, whose law firm represents many of the victims and survivors.  “We will continue to work together to put this commitment to transparency and healing into action.”

The diocese will continue to work closely with the law firm of Jeff Anderson & Associates and other representatives of victims and survivors as they move forward in their healing journey. The diocese and Jeff Anderson & Associates have committed to taking the time necessary, working together, to come to a fair resolution of claims that allows the work of the Church to continue while promoting healing.

The diocese is considering all options for fairly resolving the claims made against it, including reorganization under the bankruptcy laws. However, diocesan leaders do not foresee any imminent decision in this regard.

Parishioners and Catholic school families have been informed of the claims against parishes. At this time, it is not expected that the claims will affect the normal operations of parishes or Catholic schools in the diocese.

“We are working with parish leaders to identify insurance coverage to cover claims,” said Tom Wieser, an attorney with Meier, Kennedy & Quinn. “Parishioners helped pay for this insurance coverage for many years and we expect insurance companies to step up and help us come to a fair resolution of these claims for victims and survivors and for parishes.”

While the period for filing civil claims on historical childhood abuse has ended, the diocese continues to encourage anyone who has suffered sexual abuse or exploitation by a priest or anyone else involved in Church ministry in the Diocese of New Ulm immediately to report such misconduct to local law enforcement, regardless of when the misconduct occurred.

Victims and survivors of abuse in the Church are also encouraged to contact the diocesan victim assistance coordinator at 1421 6th Street North, New Ulm, MN 56073 or 507-233-5313 for counseling or other assistance in healing.

“This is a time to recommit to efforts to prevent the abuse of the vulnerable and to vow never to forget the lessons of this tragic chapter in Church history,” said Bishop LeVoir, who declared a day of prayer on May 25 and continues to urge local Catholics to pray that victims and survivors find healing, reconciliation, and hope.

“Victims and survivors have stepped forward to share their experiences – stories of pain they have carried for decades – and we are called as Christians to show our love and support for them as they seek healing,” he said.

Editor’s note: More information about healing resources, the diocese’s response to claims, names of priests accused of abuse, and safeguards put in place to protect children and young people can be found at www.dnu.org.