St. Cloud diocese reaches agreement on sex abuse claims

A sign at a church reads "Faith and hope are not canceled."
A pedestrian walks past a sign of hope Friday March 20, 2020 at St. Mary’s Cathedral in downtown St. Cloud.
Paul Middlestaedt for MPR News

Updated: 5:30 p.m. | Posted: 1:30 p.m.

The Catholic Diocese of St. Cloud announced Tuesday that it reached an agreement with survivors of clergy sexual abuse on a framework to settle their legal claims.

The diocese said the agreement includes a $22.5 million trust to compensate abuse survivors, along with a commitment that the diocese will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection “in the near future.”

Jeff Anderson, an attorney representing about 70 survivors who filed claims against the central Minnesota diocese, said it’s been an “arduous journey” to reach an agreement. 

“[The survivors] deserve credit for their persistence, for their courage and their tenacity in requiring the Diocese of St. Cloud to come clean, to be transparent and to finally account to them and to the community,” he said. “Because of them, the community is safer. Stearns County is safer.”

In a news release, St. Cloud Bishop Donald Kettler apologized to survivors for the harm they suffered, and said he remained committed to "assist in the healing of all those who have been hurt."

The diocese announced in 2018 that it planned to file for bankruptcy, after receiving 74 claims of sexual abuse of minors. Those claims were filed during a three-year window that lifted the statute of limitations on allegations of clergy abuse in Minnesota, which ended in 2016.

At the time, Kettler said Chapter 11 reorganization would be the best way to ensure that money would be distributed equitably to all victims and allow the diocese to continue normal operations.

The diocese said it remains committed to disclosing the names of all clergy against whom what it calls credible claims of abuse have been made. It previously released a list of 33 priests it believes likely abused minors. Since then, the list has grown to 41 names. Anderson said under the agreement, the diocese will release information on all of those clergy members.

Several other dioceses in Minnesota have sought bankruptcy protection amid abuse claims. They include the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, and the dioceses of Duluth, New Ulm and Winona-Rochester. The Crookston diocese reached a settlement with survivors that avoided bankruptcy.

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