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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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