Archdiocese paid $11 million for misconduct by priests

  • Article by: TONY KENNEDY , Star Tribune
  • Updated: October 23, 2013 - 11:39 PM

Payments from 2003 to 2012 went to victims of abuse, as well as to priests, lawyers and therapists.

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Chancery of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis in St. Paul.

Photo: Jeff Wheeler, Star Tribune

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The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis spent nearly $11 million from 2003 through 2012 to cover costs directly associated with sexual abuse and other misconduct committed by priests who were removed from active ministry, according to church documents obtained by the Star Tribune.

The archdiocese wrote checks directly to victims of abuse, in cases involving children and vulnerable adults, in every year of the period covered by the reports, totaling more than $476,000 over the decade. Also, $1.5 million was paid on behalf of victims to cover counseling, therapy and other medical services.

Additional money was distributed to child victims via a trust account funded by the archdiocese and managed by the St. Paul law firm Meier, Kennedy & Quinn.

A source close to the archdiocese said victims’ payments detailed in the documents applied only to cases handled inside the archdiocese, not to those adjudicated in the courts.

Some children, for instance, have received tuition money to attend Catholic schools, including St. Agnes in St. Paul and DeLaSalle in Minneapolis.

Other substantial payments went for therapy and treatment. In 2007, for example, when total payments ran to $1.62 million, one of the biggest single categories was $303,882 in support of child victims. Those funds paid for the cost of psychiatric care and other treatment through such providers as Life Healing Center in Santa Fe, N.M., North Metro Psychiatry, Hazelden Foundation and University of Minnesota Physicians.

Jim Accurso, a spokesman for the archdiocese, said late Wednesday that checks written directly to victims were related to out-of-court “priest suit settlements’’ in which “many’’ of the victims were represented by attorneys. He also confirmed that other victims were paid out of settlement funds distributed by Meier, Kennedy & Quinn under a legal trust account arrangement.

Accurso said the payments to victims were made in accordance with the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, a document adopted by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops in 2002 in response to the rising number of sexual abuse allegations. Article 3 of the charter says that dioceses “are not to enter into settlements which bind the parties to confidentiality unless the victim/survivor requests confidentiality and this request is noted in the text of the agreement.’’

Accurso said the church never asked victims or their families for confidentiality when a settlement involved a minor or vulnerable adult. However, he said, when a minor or vulnerable adult has requested confidentiality in writing, the archdiocese has consented to those requests, as the charter allows.

The archdiocese accounts detail spending in two separate budget categories. One covers costs associated with priests who have been removed from active ministry due to abuse of children or vulnerable adults. The other deals with costs associated with priests who have been removed from active ministry due to adult sexual misconduct or other misconduct, including financial misdeeds. Each budget category contains subsections addressing various payments to priests and victims.

Total annual payments over the 10-year period have ranged as high as $1.7 million, in 2006.

Priest payments

The documents show that priests received substantial financial support regardless of their acts. After being removed from ministry, they receive a continuation of their salary, financial support for room and board, and continued annual contributions to their pension fund. In addition, some received education payments, income supplements, and funds for rehabilitation, psychological treatment, counseling and legal expenses.

Payments to priests who are removed from active ministry are not uncommon, according to Terry McKiernan, president of Bishop Accountability, a Massachusetts-based group that tracks clergy abuse. If a perpetrator does not step down from the priesthood, canon law requires that the diocese care for him. The thought is that it is better “not to have the priest destitute,’’ McKiernan said.

Some entries in the documents address special payments to priests without explanation. In 2003, for example, under the heading “Priest Support — Other,’’ there are $28,165 in expenses in a section that names an L. Krautkremer. The source familiar with the expense documents said that refers to the Rev. Lee Krautkremer, a priest who was sued for child sexual abuse in a case that revealed he was moved to different parishes as a priest after the allegations against him first came to light. He was asked by the archdiocese in 2002 to resign as chaplain at North Memorial Medical Center, and he did.

The source said the 2003 expenses relating to Krautkremer included paying off more than $20,000 of the priest’s personal loans. The expense category includes the priest’s last name and a line-item payment to U.S. Bank.

In most years covered by the documents, the archdiocese also incurred costs for investigation expenses. In 2003, for instance, those costs totaled $46,473.

Nationally, legal settlements with abuse victims and payments to accused clergy cost U.S. dioceses nearly $113 million last year, according to a 2012 report prepared by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. That includes $56 million in victims’ settlements, $7.2 million for victims’ therapy and $35 million in attorneys’ fees. The figure has been declining since its peak of $499 million in 2007.

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