A federal bankruptcy judge has ruled that Catholic churches in Minnesota do not have to play a video produced by a group of clergy abuse victims at Sunday mass. Attorneys representing clergy abuse victims had asked the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis to compel its 187 parishes to play the video this weekend.
“We don’t have the power to reach people in the pews,” attorney Jeff Anderson said.
The video encourages victims of abuse by priests to come forward before the fast-approaching Aug. 3 settlement deadline. They argued it was the best way to reach abuse victims still “hiding in the shadows." The archdiocese said no, and on Thursday a federal judge agreed, ruling it was produced more as an advocacy piece than a true notification mechanism.
“The archdiocese being opposed to it is disturbing,” Anderson said. “It’s disgraceful and I fault them for not allowing for it to be played.”
“The video, personally to me, is a very touching and moving piece,” said Charlie Rodgers, an attorney for the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis. “And there is an appropriate place for it. I think the victim’s advocates will make sure it is widely disseminated where it should be disseminated. But perhaps it’s not proper to disseminate it in a Sunday mass.”
On Jan. 16, 2015, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis filed for protection under Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. Archbishop John Nienstedt said it was the best course of action to ensure a fair distribution of resources to victims of alleged clergy sexual abuse.
“I make this decision because I believe it is the fairest and most helpful recourse for those victims/survivors who have made claims against us,” Nienstedt said in a letter. “Reorganization will allow the finite resources of the Archdiocese to be distributed equitably among all victims/survivors.”
As part of the archdiocese's bankruptcy filing, the church is mandated to notify potential victims of clergy abuse in advance of the Aug. 3 filing deadline. The notification effort includes ads on TV, radio and the internet, as well as bulletins inside the parishes themselves. Attorneys for the church said it has spent some $200,000 trying to get the word out.
Aug. 3 deadline
If you were sexually abused by any person connected with the archdiocese, you must file a claim by Aug. 3, 2015. Sexual abuse, as defined in this case, includes “molestation, rape, undue familiarity, sexually-related physical, psychological or emotional harm, or contacts or interactions of a sexual nature between a child and an adult, or a non-consenting adult and another adult.”
For more information on how to obtain and file a proof of claim and associated documents please, go to http://information.archspm.org or website of the U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the District of Minnesota at http://www.mnb.uscourts.gov. You can also call a toll-free hotline at 866-868-4808 or call the Official Committee of Unsecured Creditors appointed in this case at 612-335-1407.