The Crosier Fathers and Brothers, a Roman Catholic order with a community in Onamia, Minn., filed for bankruptcy Thursday and agreed to pay $25.5 million to clergy abuse victims.
The settlement is one of the largest per abuse survivor among the 14 Catholic Church bankruptcies resolved in recent years, said Mike Finnegan, an attorney representing the Crosier abuse victims. Other settlements have been larger, but involved larger numbers of victims, he said.
The Crosier settlement could put pressure on other clergy abuse cases that haven't settled yet, said Chuck Zech, a church finance expert at Villanova University in Pennsylvania. "It's a big [settlement]," he said. "It raises the ante. It sets up a bar, so to speak."
Last month, an overwhelming majority of abuse survivors in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis voted against a plan proposed by the archdiocese. That plan would include a victims' compensation fund of at least $155 million — about $120 million from insurance payments — and a court order to prevent victims from filing future lawsuits against the parishes and insurers involved.
The Crosiers are the fourth Catholic diocese or religious order in Minnesota to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, and the 18th in the United States. Four of the 18 have not yet produced settlements.
The Crosiers were willing to be transparent with the assets that they have, making them the first religious order or diocese in Minnesota to agree to a compensation agreement as part of bankruptcy, Finnegan said.
Forty-three sex abuse survivors have filed lawsuits against the order.
"We applaud the strength and courage of all of the sexual abuse survivors who have come forward and shared their truths," said Finnegan, an attorney with Jeff Anderson and Associates. "The Crosiers are doing the right thing by working with survivors in order to facilitate a transparent and fair resolution for everyone involved."
In a written statement, the Crosiers said the bankruptcy reorganization plan was the only way that all the claimants could be offered a "fair and just resolution within the Crosiers' limited financial resources."
Seeking 'a just resolution'
The abuse occurred more than 30 years ago and the Crosiers have attempted to find pastoral and healing solutions for those harmed, said Prior Provincial Thomas Enneking. "Our hope is that reorganization under Chapter 11 will begin to bring this sad period in the Crosiers' history to a just resolution," he said.
The Crosiers came to the United States in 1910 with Dutch immigrants who settled in Minnesota. The religious order currently has 46 members remaining in the United States.
In March 2014, the Crosiers voluntarily released an updated list of 19 members who have been credibly accused of child sexual abuse, which occurred from the 1960s to the mid-1980s. Some of the accused are no longer in the order or have died, Finnegan said. A list of eight names of members, who worked in various locations around the country, was disclosed in 2002.
As part of the settlement framework, the Crosiers agreed to release all the files and secret documents on the perpetrators, Finnegan said.
"We can then make those public and we can make sure there are no more secrets around child sex abuse in this organization," he said. "It will make sure the public knows what happened and it doesn't get repeated in the future."
Staff writer Jean Hopfensperger contributed to this story.