Abuse victims, archdiocese argue compensation in bankruptcy court

In federal bankruptcy court, the archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis argued to limit compensation to victims of sex abuse by local priests to $156 million.

Abuse survivors, however, argue that it’s far too little.

Attorney Jeff Anderson represents most of the roughly 400 victim who’ve made credible abuse claims against the archdiocese. The claims led the church to file for bankruptcy.

“It is this archdiocese that continues now to pour salt in the wounds by engaging in secret settlements with insurance companies and doesn’t give the survivors the right to get at that insurance coverage,” Anderson said.

In Minneapolis Federal Court, the victims and the church argued two proposed plans in front of a bankruptcy judge.

“This is the best we could do as far as achieving a pot, a reasonable pot, for the victims,” said Charlie Rogers, attorney for the archdiocese.

Attorneys for the archdiocese, plus those for individual parishes and insurance companies, argue that the archdiocese plan is best: $156 million in a victim's fund, which protects individual churches and priests and policies from endless lawsuits.

“The other alternative is years of litigation and uncertainty,” Rogers said. “We felt that given the ages of the victims and the need to get about healing promptly and quickly, that this was the best option we could put on the table that met all the goals of the bankruptcy code - and frankly, fairness”.

“In a perfect world I would like them to remember they're here because there are 400-plus victims,” said Jim Keenan, an abuse survivor.

Abuse survivors and their attorneys want to sue parishes individually, believing their insurance policies are deep and that a limited fund lets the church off way to easy.

“It doesn't cause impact to them,” Keenan said. “That would be like you or me getting a traffic fine and maybe having to spend a little bit more than our budget wanted to at the time, but not nearly enough to make us go, ‘there's no way in heck I'm going to do that again.’”

The judge did not say when he planned to rule, but indicated he wanted victims to be able to wrap up claims quickly.