The committee representing clergy abuse victims in bankruptcy court has proposed its own financial reorganization plan for the Twin Cities archdiocese, including provisions to mortgage the St. Paul Cathedral and to halt support payments to abusive priests and give the money to abuse victims instead.
The plan, filed in U.S. Bankruptcy Court Monday, requires the archdiocese to contribute $80 million to abuse victims in its financial reorganization instead of the $13 million proposed by the archdiocese.
“This is a plan that would fairly compensate the more than 400 survivors who have been so egregiously harmed,” said victims’ attorney Jeff Anderson at a news conference Tuesday.
Anderson said the archdiocese has the ability to contribute far more to abuse victims than it proposed in its financial reorganization plan filed in May. That plan calls for the creation of a $65 million trust fund for victims, which could increase if further insurance settlements are reached.
The St. Paul and Minneapolis Archdiocese would contribute about $13 million to that fund, with insurers picking up most of the rest.
Of the $80 million in archdiocese contributions proposed by the victims’ committee, $38 million would come from loans leveraged from archdiocese assets such as the cathedral and property leased to several high schools, said Anderson.
Other funds could come from such archdiocesan entities as parishes and related nonprofits, which Anderson estimates are worth more than $1.4 billion. Bankruptcy judge Robert Kressel, however, ruled that those assets cannot be consolidated and tapped for payments to victims. The victims’ committee is appealing that decision.
The plan also calls for a reversal of “fraudulent transfers” the archdiocese made to Catholic organizations even as it prepared for bankruptcy, Anderson said. That included $280,000 to the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and $200,000 to the Vatican and $100,000 to the Minnesota Catholic Conference, he said. Archbishop Bernard Hebda issued a statement following the news conference.
“The judge has asked all parties to negotiate in good faith, and that is what we are endeavoring to do,” wrote Hebda. “Our consistent goal remains the same: a fair and just resolution for all.”
In addition to financial provisions, the victims’ plan calls for the archdiocese to release internal files on its investigation into possible sexual improprieties by former archbishop John Nienstedt and any Vatican interference in that investigation.
The archdiocese declared bankruptcy in 2015, following an unprecedented wave of clergy abuse lawsuits sparked by a Minnesota law that allowed older abuse cases to have their day in court. Since then, more than 400 individuals have filed claims with the bankruptcy court.