MINNEAPOLIS (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis filed for bankruptcy protection on Friday, saying the move will allow its finite resources to be distributed among victims and survivors of child sex abuse by clergy.
The archdiocese, which has been criticized for its past handling of clergy abuse cases, is the 12th Catholic diocese in the United States to seek bankruptcy protection over sex abuse claims. Most of the Minnesota cases date from the 1950s to the 1980s.
“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,” Archbishop John Nienstedt said in a statement on the archdiocese’s website.
The filing does not include parishes or schools and will allow the archdiocese to provide essential services, he said.
About 825,000 Catholics live in the archdiocese, which has 187 parishes and 90 schools in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area.
The archdiocese has faced numerous lawsuits raising claims of child sex abuse by clergy. Minnesota in 2013 approved a law that gave plaintiffs until May 2016 to file old claims that would otherwise be barred by the statute of limitations.
The archdiocese raised bankruptcy as an option in October when it announced the settlement of a civil lawsuit that had forced officials to release decades of files on clergy accused of child sex abuse. It cut its budget by 20 percent in November.
Sex abuse claimants are the top 20 unsecured creditors listed in the Chapter 11 filing. It provided no dollar figures.
The archdiocese has disclosed the identities of 62 priests and two religious brothers who it says have sufficient evidence against them to believe that sexual abuse of minors occurred. None of the 64 are currently in ministry.
Attorney Jeff Anderson, who has brought dozens of cases against the archdiocese, said the filing halts trials set for later in January, but will not stop disclosure of clergy accused of sex abuse.
“It is our belief that this action taken today is actually necessary, and comes as no surprise,” Anderson told a news conference.
He said the archdiocese is unable to satisfy the claims against it, but has insurance from the 1950s onward that he believes will play an important role in the case.
The archdiocese and Anderson tried unsuccessfully to bring the insurance companies to the table before Friday’s filing, he said.
Additional reporting by Brendan O'Brien in Milwaukee; editing by Chris Reese and Matthew Lewis