Money the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis was originally required to set aside for counseling survivors of clergy sex abuse will instead be distributed to survivors for use at their discretion.
The change was initiated by the unsecured creditors committee representing the approximately 450 sex abuse survivors who reached a settlement agreement with the archdiocese in May.
The archdiocese shared the development at a Wednesday court hearing that is required as part of its 2015 settlement with the Ramsey County Attorney’s Office, which had filed both criminal and civil cases against the church alleging that it failed to protect children from an abusive priest.
The criminal charges were dropped in light of a settlement agreement in the civil case. The church is required to report to court every six months through Feb. 2020 to provide updates on its work enforcing new protocols to prevent abuse. It was also initially told to set aside money to fund survivors’ counseling.
Tim O’Malley, director of the archdiocese’s Office of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment, told the court Wednesday that survivors asked for and will receive that money instead from their record $210 million settlement with the church.
The archdiocese also presented a fifth report on its progress implementing several aspects of the settlement agreement. The church, Assistant Ramsey County Attorney Thomas Ring and Ramsey County District Court Judge Teresa Warner all agreed the church was in “substantial compliance” with the terms of the settlement.
In January, the church presented findings from its first audit showing that 92 percent of about 2,500 church employees and volunteers were in full compliance with the “Essential 3” requirements of the settlement, which include a background check and training.
Warner on Wednesday asked O’Malley and Janell Rasmussen, deputy director of the Office of Ministerial Standards and Safe Environment, how the church was working toward 100 percent compliance.
“Tell me what’s being done to achieve that,” the judge said.
O’Malley said that most of the noncompliance was due to people filling out paperwork improperly. The church is sending staff to parishes to provide instruction and forms for recording information, Rasmussen said.
An independent firm is expected to begin its second audit of the archdiocese’s compliance in September. The findings are expected to be presented in court in late December.
O’Malley said that the county attorney’s office would have “unrestricted access” to the auditors and their notes before, during and after the auditing process. He also recommended that auditors focus their site visits, interviews and document reviews on parishes that have “significant involvement” with children.
A third and final audit will be conducted in 2019.
As the church’s settlement agreement with the county and its separate settlement agreement with abuse survivors move forward, O’Malley said, the church will expand its current restorative justice programs so that more people can participate.
He also said that despite the change in how counseling funds will be allocated, the church will continue to offer counseling services to anyone who requests them, not just those who were part of the lawsuit and settlement.