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Continued: Minnesota Child Victim's Act generates nearly 40 lawsuits, church reforms

“I didn’t know that within a year, there would be so much attention to so many claims,” Simon said.

Church: Law is mistake

The archdiocese, which opposed opening the statute of limitations, still believes time limits “are an important part of ensuring that the civil justice system remains fair to all parties,” Bishop Andrew H. Cozzens said in a written statement.

“We accept and embrace responsibility when we have made mistakes, and will continue to work with courts, victims and attorneys to pursue justice for all parties during this three-year period,” Cozzens said.

Likewise, the Rev. Karen Bockelman, retired Lutheran chair of the Minnesota Religious Council — which lobbied against the bill — still believes the law is too broad and reaches too far back. It makes defense difficult, she said.

“Documents have been lost,” said Bockelman. “Memories have faded. People have died. The insurance company no longer exists.”

Looking forward, the Vatican is likely to become part of the equation. Anderson, who sued the Vatican in 2010 in a Wisconsin case, is likely to do the same here.

“Will the Vatican be sued?” he asked. “Yes. How soon? I can’t say.”

Beyond the civil cases, where punishment does not entail jail time, some abusers will face criminal charges, said Patrick Wall, an investigator at Anderson’s law firm. County attorneys can press charges up to three years after abuse is reported to them.

More activity in court

Last week, for example, the Dakota County attorney filed charges of first-degree criminal sexual conduct against Francis Hoefgen, a former St. John’s Abbey monk now living in Columbia Heights, for allegedly abusing a boy from 1989 to 1992. His arrest followed the victim’s lawsuit filed last year.

Meanwhile, more schools, nonreligious organizations and individuals are likely to be summoned to court, said Anderson.

Donors pull back support

Three lawsuits have been filed against former drama teacher Lynn Seibel at Shattuck-St. Mary’s boarding school, said Anderson, as well as three against a former Bemidji public schoolteacher who committed suicide last year.

The Catholic Church, meanwhile, has faced financial repercussions, as some donors have balked at continuing their fiscal support.

The Twin Cities archdiocese released an audit of the chancery in February showing a $3.9 million deficit. But the report stated, “The financial condition of the archdiocese is solid,” even with the liability stemming from the recent wave of lawsuits.

Meanwhile, alleged victims of clergy sex abuse continue to step forward.

Christy, for example, said she was sexually molested by the Rev. Robert Thurner, now 88. Transferred to her church after admitting to abuse in his Hopkins parish, Thurner became a family friend, invited to dinner at her parents’ home, where the abuse occurred, she said.

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