Sexual abuse survivors in the Catholic church received a win in a recent lawsuit against the Diocese of New Ulm, Minnesota. The court approved a settlement giving nearly 100 survivors $34 million in restitution. The survivors reported abuse by priests and others within the church.

During the Mar. 10 hearing, Bishop John LeVoir apologized after some of the survivors tearfully recounted the sexual abuse they suffered. In addition to the settlement, the diocese agreed to implement 17 safety protocols to protect children.

Claimants accuse church of “massive cover-up”

LeVoir, both in court and in a letter to local Catholics, thanked survivors for their courage coming forward to reveal the church’s failure to protect them. The Bishop says their actions have forced the church to change “for the better.”

An attorney representing some of the 93 survivors told the Associated Press that the judge’s approval amounts to cleaning up a “massive cover-up.” All those included in the claim accepted the agreement, and they could begin receiving payments in May.

Settlement to be paid from cash and insurance

The diocese is one of many in Minnesota that have filed for bankruptcy due to sexual abuse claims, while others are considering the move. Of the $34 million settlement:

  • $26 million is from parish and diocesan insurance
  • $7 million in cash from the diocese
  • $1 million from all parishes in the diocese, including those not involved in the lawsuit

New wave of claims expected as states expand statute of limitations

In the past two years, the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and the Diocese of Duluth reached settlements with survivors totaling $250 million with dozens of people who were abused as children by priests.

Over the past several months, 15 states have suspended or extended the statute of limitations allowing survivors to file claims that stretch back several decades. The AP says that could result in more than 5,000 new cases, potentially costing the church more than $4 billion.