A Minnesota Catholic archdiocese on Thursday announced a $210 million settlement with clergy sexual abuse survivors, resulting in the second-largest payout to abuse victims in the history of the U.S. Catholic Church.
The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis reached the agreement as part of its plan for bankruptcy reorganization. The archdiocese had filed for bankruptcy in 2015 after the state legislature allowed hundreds of victims abused as children to sue for damages.
A total of $210,290,724 will now be distributed to 450 survivors, The Associated Press reports. The amount set aside for each victim remains to be determined. The archdiocese’s reorganization plan still needs to be approved by a bankruptcy judge and sent to victims for a vote.
Archbishop Bernard Hebda said that he’s been “humbled” by the victims’ willingness to share their stories. He hopes the completion of the bankruptcy process leads to a new period of “atonement, healing, and restoration of trust.”
“I recognize that the abuse stole so much from you, your childhood, your innocence, your safety, your ability to trust, and in many cases, your faith,” Hebda said during a press conference. “The church let you down. I’m very sorry.”
Thomas Abood, chairman of the Archdiocesan Finance Council and Reorganization Task Force, said that most of the funds for the settlement will come from insurance carriers. The rest, roughly $40 million, is expected to come from parishes, the archdiocese, a pension fund and real estate sales.
He added that this “consensual plan” will result in a formal termination of all litigation against the archdiocese, its parishes and related entities.
“We will do we can to bring this to a formal conclusion as soon as possible,” Abood said.
Fifteen American Catholic diocese or archdiocese have filed for bankruptcy, the AP reports. The Archdiocese of Los Angeles still holds the record for the largest total settlement with survivors of abusive Catholic priests and church employees, settling cases with 508 victims for $660 million in 2007.
The settlement announcement came on the same day that, thousands of miles away, Pope Francis publicly denounced a “culture of abuse and cover-up” in the Catholic Church.
Francis made the comments in a letter to the Catholic Church in Chile, another country where the clerical sexual abuse scandal has ravaged the church’s credibility.
Pope Benedict XVI rebuked Irish bishops in 2010 for “inadequate” responses to clergy abuse in that country. But Francis’ letter Thursday marked the first time that a pope has acknowledged the global church’s systematic efforts to cover up the abuse perpetrated by pedophile priests.
Saying “never again” to this culture of abuse means working together to “generate a culture of care,” Francis wrote.