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Third Minnesota diocese files Chapter 11 bankruptcy

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Bishop John M. LeVoir of New Ulm, Minn., retired Bishop Bernard J. Harrington of Winona, Minn., and Bishop John F. Kinney of St. Cloud, Minn., concelebrate Mass with other bishops from Minnesota, North Dakota and South Dakota at the Altar of the Tomb in the crypt of St. Peter's Basilica at the Vatican March 9. The bishops were making their "ad limina" visits to report to the pope and the Vatican about the status of their dioceses. (CNS photo/Paul Haring) (March 9, 2012) See POPE-US March 9, 2012.

Bishop John M. LeVoir of New Ulm, Minn., said March 3 he asked diocesan attorneys to file for reorganization under Chapter !! of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code. CNS file/Paul Haring 

NEW ULM, Minn. — A third Minnesota diocese has filed for reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.

Bishop John M. LeVoir of New Ulm said March 3 he asked diocesan attorneys to take the action in response to the enactment of the 2013 Minnesota Child Victims Act, which temporarily lifted the civil statute of limitations on child sexual abuse claims for three years. That three-year window ended May 25, 2016.

The legal step was “the fairest way to resolve sexual abuse claims while allowing the church to continue its essential work of serving people in our local communities,” Bishop LeVoir said in a statement.

Under the three-year window, 101 lawsuits were filed against the New Ulm diocese and some of its parishes, the statement said.

“I again extend my deepest apologies on behalf of the Diocese of New Ulm to victims and survivors of clergy sexual abuse as minors,” Bishop LeVoir said. “Victims and survivors have shown incredible courage by stepping forward to help prevent such a tragedy from ever happening again. Victims and survivors must be treated with dignity and just compensation is owed them, as well as our daily prayers. These are integral to the healing process.”

Parishes, Catholic schools and other Catholics organizations in the diocese, which covers south and west-central parts of the state, are not part of the reorganization because they are separate corporations under Minnesota law. The diocese has 75 parishes and a Catholic population of about 56,000 out of a total population of just over 280,000.

The Duluth diocese and the St. Paul-Minneapolis archdiocese filed under Chapter 11 in 2015. The cases are pending. Nationwide, 11 other diocese and two religious orders have filed for reorganization.

Statewide, the law resulted in the filing of more than 800 claims of child sexual abuse by priests before the deadline. Other cases include more than 400 in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, 125 in both the Duluth and Winona dioceses, about 75 in the St. Cloud Diocese and about 20 in the Crookston Diocese, Mike Finnegan, an attorney representing abuse victims, told the Star Tribune in Minneapolis.

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Milwaukee’s bankruptcy plan provides $21 million for survivors

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MILWAUKEE — A nearly five-year chapter in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s history came to a close Nov. 9, when Chief Judge Susan V. Kelley of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin approved the archdiocese’s plan of reorganization.

The plan calls for $21 million to be paid to 355 abuse survivors. It also includes a $500,000 therapy fund that will allow all survivors to receive counseling for as long as they need it.

The hearing, which concluded a process that began Jan. 4, 2011, when the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy, drew the largest attendance to any of the proceedings. More than a dozen attorneys representing the archdiocese, the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors, other claimants, the archdiocesan Cemetery Trust, insurance companies and other entities were present. Also attending were Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki, representatives from the archdiocese and more than a dozen abuse victim survivors.

In stating the case number — 11-20059 — to open the hearing, Kelley added, “I’m hoping I never have another case that I memorize the case number on.”

Attorneys for the archdiocese and the claimants, most of whom were represented by the creditors’ committee, entered mediation, which was not ordered by the court, July 15-17 and came to an agreement on the plan for reorganization. Mediation attempts in 2012 and 2014 had failed.

After Kelley approved the archdiocese’s disclosure statement for the plan of reorganization Sept. 30, claimants had until Nov. 3 to vote for rejection or acceptance of the plan. Attorneys for the claimants had encouraged them to accept the plan.

Kelley granted a request by Frank LoCoco, one of the archdiocese’s attorneys, for Archbishop Listecki to speak in court. After thanking the judge for her time and for “handling the complexities of this case,” the archbishop continued, “I apologize to the victims and their families for what they endured under these clergy who exercised criminal and immoral behavior. There is no resolution that will ever bring back what the victims have lost and their families have suffered.”

The archbishop told the victims their courage to come forward and to tell their stories made a difference.

“A change has occurred, and that change is the changing of the consciousness of the archdiocese and dioceses across the nation to pay attention in any way, shape or form to those things that may endanger our children,” he said.

Noting that the archdiocese will return to its charitable, educational and spiritual work, the archbishop added, “But having said that, we will never forget this moment. It has and continues to shape us as we continue into the future.”

The reorganization plan stipulates that Archbishop Listecki will meet personally with any victim requesting a meeting.

At various times throughout the one-hour, 46-minute hearing, Kelley encouraged victims to speak. Kevin Schultz said that he, his brother, and two sisters were all abused by the same priest.

“It caused a rift in our family. We didn’t talk about it until 2005,” he said. “In 2005, the archdiocese provided me with help. I’m better now, but I’m still dealing with it on a daily basis. I’ve gone through a divorce, and my daughter doesn’t speak to me. I can’t set a foot in church, but I would like to get closer to God.”

Schultz said he still asks God why this happened to them.

Kelley told the court, “Hopefully, as the archbishop said, a page can be turned, some resolution can be had, and with therapy provided, there can be some peace for the survivors.”

By Brian Olszewski, who is executive editor of the Catholic Herald, a publication serving the Catholic community in southeastern Wisconsin.

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Hope Sustained: Parishioners donate $31 million to capital campaign, $3 million over goal

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Dialog Editor

 

“We’ve been very blessed,” Bishop Malooly said last week. He was announcing the response to the ambitious Sustaining Hope for the Future capital campaign launched by the diocese in 2013.

The pledged total is now $31,074,000, more than $3 million over the campaign’s target, $28 million.

“This is a real tribute to the people and the pastors” of the diocese, Bishop Malooly said. Read more »

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Milwaukee archdiocese says pensions being paid on time

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MILWAUKEE — All employee benefits have been paid on a timely basis and pension plans will continue to pay all benefits in the immediate future, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee assured pension recipients and contributors in a “media clarification” issued Oct. 26.

The archdiocese issued the clarification in response to an Oct. 25 story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel stating that pension funds operated by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee “have unfunded liabilities totaling $41.8 million, according to documents filed as part of the archdiocese’s bankruptcy proceedings.”

Read more »

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Repentance and renewal

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The previous issue of The Dialog, Sept. 29, included two revealing reports about the state of the Diocese of Wilmington.

First, the front page featured Bishop Malooly’s statement that the diocese had funded a Settlement Trust for survivors of clergy childhood sexual abuse with $77.4 million.

The bishop also reported $5 million was being transferred to the Lay Pension Trust and an additional $5 million would be deposited in that trust by the end of 2011.

In emerging from more than 700 days in Chapter 11 bankruptcy, the bishop said the diocese had met one of its goals — meeting its obligations to survivors of clergy sex abuse in a just and equitable manner — and he pledged to continue to work to make parishes and schools safe havens for young people, as a well as to comply in the coming months with other non-monetary terms of the settlement.

The bishop asked for prayers for the survivors and their families and also for the church of the Wilmington diocese, “God’s people who have been so supportive in these challenging times, and especially for the faithful clergy, all of whom have suffered because of the scandal of abuse of children.”

Second, inside the Sept. 29 Dialog was the story that the 2011 Annual Catholic Appeal counted $4.5 million pledges as of Sept. 15, surpassing its goal by nearly $476,000.

So, on page one was a summary of the diocese’s bankruptcy settlement and its financial payments for survivors of sexual abuse by clergy. Inside, there was a report on the support of parishioners to the Annual Catholic Appeal throughout the bankruptcy process.

Amidst a recounting of sin and sorrow in the diocese, there was also a story of forgiveness and affirmation in the continuing generosity of the diocese’s parishioners.

The criminal acts that led to one of the most “challenging times” the Diocese of Wilmington has faced are tragedies that can never be erased in survivors’ lives by the settlements they receive. The diocese has now made a financial secular penance for its sins, and continues on its path of contrition in its firm resolve to sin no more by protecting all children in its care.

Bishop Malooly has agreed in non-monetary provisions of the settlement to be a public penitent of sorts for the diocese by visiting each parish where abuse occurred in the past in an effort to seek forgiveness and reconciliation.

Now is the time for all Catholics to act on the belief they proclaim in the forgiveness of sins when they recite the Nicene Creed and the Our Father in church.

So many parishioners, including those still so generous to the Appeal, have shown their willingness as Catholics to practice the forgiveness of sins, including for the church run by sinners for sinners.

True reconciliation, a difficult forgiveness, is a challenge for people on every side of the abuse crisis.

We can only pray that the people who were violated can be reconciled to God and find some peace and understanding in faith.

This time of transition in the Diocese of Wilmington, which Bishop Malooly has said will not be easy, can be a time of renewal, of rebirth.

While confessing our sorrow at the sins of church members and acknowledging our own faults, now is the time to be reconciled, to be reunited to the joys of the faith — the consolations of God’s love and mercy  — and to renew our hope in the Resurrection, which came through the gift of that first challenging time in the church, Christ’s crucifixion.

Ryan is editor/general manager of The Dialog.

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