A $5 million settlement agreement was reached with the Diocese of Crookston and 15 sexual abuse survivors who allege abuse between 1969 and 2009, read a release by Jeff Anderson & Associates and Letter to the Faithful from Bishop Michael J. Hoeppner Wednesday.
“In addition to receiving compensation, the 15 survivors compelled the Diocese of Crookston to be more transparent through non-economic settlement provisions,” read Anderson’s release. “As part of the settlement, the names and secret files of clergy accused of sexually abusing children in the Diocese of Crookston will be made public at a later date. In addition, depositions taken in the litigation of clergy child sex abuse cases against the Diocese will be made public.”
15 lawsuits for sexual abuse claims were filed between April 2016 and May 2017 as a result of the Minnesota Child Victims Act. Most of the 15 survivors brought their lawsuits as a result of the Child Victims Act, which was enacted in 2013 and gave survivors whose cases were otherwise barred by the statute of limitations a three-year window until May 25, 2016, to bring lawsuits against their abusers and the institutions that enabled them. Since the Child Victims Act went into effect in May 2013, at least four other child sexual abuse lawsuits against the Diocese of Crookston were settled.
Because of the settlement, the Diocese of Crookston has been able to avoid bankruptcy protection, said Hoeppner’s letter. All other dioceses in Minnesota have filed or announced their intent to file for financial reorganization in recent years. “The Diocese will not experience lay-offs and can steadfastly continue its mission of serving God’s people in the 14 Northwest counties of Minnesota.”
“Most of the costs associated with the settlement came through insurance proceeds,” the letter continued. “The Diocese of Crookston paid $1,550,000.00; most of this amount was from the property sales of Camp Corbett (Big Elbow Lake, Becker County, MN) in 2018 and Holy Spirit Newman Center (Bemidji, MN) in 2016, as well as two non-restricted estate gifts in 2017. Also, in preparation for settlement, two open staff positions were left unfilled. In meeting the settlement, the Diocese did not have to finance any portion through loans.”
“Although victims can never be fully compensated for their suffering, it is hopeful these settlements offer healing and justice,” said Hoeppner.
“The settlement brings some closure for these courageous survivors and is a step in the right direction for the Diocese of Crookston,” said Jeff Anderson of Jeff Anderson & Associates, attorney for the 15 survivors. “By coming forward and holding the Diocese accountable, these survivors are taking back power that was stolen from them when they were abused as children. This settlement gives them a measure of justice while avoiding more prolonged litigation. It will help advance healing for survivors and child protection in the Diocese.”
The 15 survivors’ lawsuits alleged child sexual abuse between approximately 1969 and 2009 by clergy including Fr. James Bernauer; Fr. James Porter; Fr. Patrick Sullivan; Fr. Stanley Bourassa; Fr. James Vincent Fitzgerald, OMI; and Msgr. Roger Grundhaus.
"The Diocese of Crookston is committed to transparency and accountability in response to the clerical sexual abuse crisis and takes seriously accusations of sexual misconduct by clergy," said the Diocese. "If you or someone you know has been the victim of sexual misconduct on the part of a priest, deacon, or individual representing the Diocese of Crookston, its parishes, or its schools, please contact the diocesan Victim Assistance Coordinator at 218-281-7895."