Diocese plans to file bankruptcy in wake of sex abuse claims
WINONA — The Catholic Diocese of Winona-Rochester plans to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy as a result of claims of sexual abuse made against former priests, according to a statement from Bishop John Quinn.
The diocese faces 121 claims of sex abuse by 14 priests who have been accused of sexual misconduct with children from the 1960s through the 1980s. Eleven of those priests worked in Rochester at one time or another, and a total of 11 parishes across the diocese were affected.
“As part of this healing, it is incumbent upon us to create a path forward that provides just compensation for the victims of abuse,” Quinn said. That path, he added, includes public acknowledgment of the pain inflicted upon the victims, an apology and financial compensation.
The 14 priests include: Thomas Adamson, Sylvester Brown, Joseph Cashman, Louis Cook, William Curtis, John Feiten, Richard Hatch, Ferdinand Kaiser, Leo Koppala, Jak Krough, Michael Kuisle, James Lennon, Leland Smith and Robert Taylor.
The diocese plans to make a public announcement Tuesday, but distributed a letter from Quinn to parishioners during the weekend, said Matthew L. Willkom, director of the Office of Communications for the diocese.
Willkom added that the process will not affect the day-to-day operations of the diocese. The parishes and schools in the diocese are not filing for bankruptcy and will not be affected by any settlement.
To reduce the possibility of further abuse, in 2002, the diocese established the Office of Safe Environment, which runs several programs to combat abuse through education and practices.
One is a program for adults called Virtus that establishes practices that help prevent opportunities for abuse while also recognizing signs of abuse and patterns of sexual abuse.
The second is a program for children called Circle of Grace that teaches children to identify and maintain appropriate physical, emotional, spiritual and sexual boundaries; recognize when those boundaries are being violated; and demonstrate the proper actions to take when feeling threatened or violated.
In February, the Diocese of St. Cloud became the fourth diocese in Minnesota to announce it would declare bankruptcy in the face of 74 civil claims. The other dioceses include Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the dioceses of Duluth and New Ulm.
There are six dioceses in Minnesota. With the Diocese of Winona-Rochester announcing plans to file for bankruptcy, only the Diocese of Crookston in Minnesota has not made a similar announcement.
Chapter 11 bankruptcy allows an institution or individual to reorganize its finances with a judge approving a final reorganization plan. It allows the organization to continue operating while paying creditors – those who are being paid for claims of past abuse – over time.