Clergy abuse survivors have overwhelmingly approved a bankruptcy settlement plan for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, ending the last major hurdle to court approval of the agreement.
Out of 400 votes cast, 398 abuse survivors voted to accept the $210 million settlement hammered out this year. The results were released Friday.
“This is a very significant moment in the case, and a very significant moment in survivors’ voices being heard,” said Mike Finnegan, an attorney for the survivors. “There’s an end in sight to this bankruptcy.”
Archdiocese officials said they were grateful for the nearly unanimous vote.
“The archdiocese is grateful for the overwhelming support abuse survivors gave in voting for the joint plan of reorganization,” said Tom Abood, chairman of the archdiocese’s reorganization task force.
Abood said the archdiocese was looking forward to the confirmation hearing for the plan, which will take place Tuesday before U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Kressel.
The settlement, announced in May, would place the money in a trust fund for the claimants, with payments based on the severity of the abuse they endured. Eligible survivors of child sex abuse would receive a minimum of $50,000 under the plan.
In return, they would be prohibited from pursuing further legal action against the archdiocese or its parishes.
The bulk of the settlement, $170 million, will be paid by the more than 20 insurance carriers of the archdiocese and local parishes, Abood has said. The remaining $40 million will be paid by the archdiocese and individual parishes, he said.
This is the archdiocese’s second reorganization plan. Its first plan was overwhelmingly rejected last year by the men and women who had been abused by clergy. Their attorneys argued that survivors had no voice in the plan and that its settlement was insufficient.
“This time around, the survivors were there in the negotiations,” Finnegan said.
The archdiocese sought bankruptcy protection in January 2015 following a wave of lawsuits alleging sexual abuse by priests. The cases were sparked by the passage of the Minnesota Child Victim’s Act, which opened a three-year window for older abuse cases to have their day in court.
There were long delays in reaching a settlement agreement. Both sides created and proposed their own reorganization plans to Kressel, who rejected both in December of 2017. Kressel asked all parties to return to mediation.
The reorganization approved Friday was announced in May. Kressel is expected to rule on the plan next week.