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Plan to resolve diocesan bankruptcy receives final court approval

Bankruptcy Judge Robert Kressel of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District Court of Minnesota has approved today a $39.2 million agreement between victims-survivors of clergy sexual abuse and the Diocese of Duluth.

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The decision gives final approval to a joint agreement reached earlier this year between the diocese and attorneys representing survivors and victims of clergy sexual abuse. It marks the end of a nearly four-year bankruptcy process for the Duluth Diocese and will settle claims against the diocese and against 30 parishes. The diocese, all its parishes, and several other Catholic entities in the region will together contribute approximately $10 million, with the rest of the settlement being funded by insurance.

In addition to providing compensation for those hurt by abuse, the agreement also provides for non-economic considerations, such as the release of documents relating to historic cases of clergy sexual abuse.

“Our first thoughts today are with the innocent people who suffered abuse,” said Bishop Paul Sirba, the ninth bishop of the Duluth Diocese. “While no financial settlement can make up for the harm that was done to them, it can be a form of accountability for the ways the church failed them, and a sign of our solidarity with them and our deep sorrow for what they have suffered.”

The agreement will establish an independently administered trust for survivors of clergy sexual abuse, as well as a fund for any victims of historical cases of clergy sexual abuse who may come forward in the future. It also protects the diocese and contributing parishes and other contributing entities from future lawsuits regarding these historical cases.

The Diocese of Duluth includes the 10 counties of northeastern Minnesota with more than 45,000 Catholics and 72 parishes.