Minnesota archdiocese settle lawsuit on abuse of minors

Reuters News
Posted: Oct 13, 2014 8:27 PM

MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - A lawsuit that forced Roman Catholic officials in Minnesota to release decades of files on clergy accused of child sex abuse has been settled along with agreements on new child protection protocols, church officials and a victim's attorney said Monday.

The lawsuit brought by a man identified as John Doe 1 accused the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Winona of creating a public nuisance by concealing information on sex abuse by clergy.

He accused a priest of sexually abusing him in the mid 1970s when he was a child and the archdiocese and diocese of failing to supervise the priest properly. Financial terms were not disclosed in the settlement that applies to both the archdiocese and diocese.

"The question of compensation and accountability for all the others who have been wounded is now going to be a work in progress," said attorney Jeff Anderson, who represents numerous plaintiffs in lawsuits alleging clergy sex abuse.

Anderson said they would slow down the litigation process and engage in mediation and settlement.

Vicar General Charles Lachowitzer said during the joint news conference with Anderson that all financial options are on the table for the archdiocese.

"The agreement embodies a strengthened spirit of collaboration in addressing the issues related to clerical sexual abuse," Archbishop John Nienstedt, who was traveling in Africa, said in a statement.

The Roman Catholic church in Minnesota has been under fire for its past handling of clergy abuse cases. Minnesota in 2013 approved a law that gave plaintiffs until May 2016 to file old child sex abuse cases that would otherwise be barred by the statute of limitations.

The lawsuit was filed in May 2013 and a county judge in December 2013 ordered the release of names of more than 40 priests the archdiocese and diocese had deemed to have been credibly accused of sexually abusing minors.

The 17 protocols announced on Monday include requirements that priests sign declarations that they have not sexually abused a minor and have no knowledge of any abuse of a minor by another priest or employee that has not been reported to law enforcement and the diocese and archdiocese.

The archdiocese and diocese also must wait to conduct investigations until law enforcement completes its investigation into the sex abuse allegation or allows the church to proceed.

(Reporting by David Bailey; Editing by Sandra Maler)