Dioceses Struggle to Manage Abuse Settlement Payouts

A Minnesota judge has approved a bankruptcy settlement for the Diocese of Duluth, which will provide $39 million for survivors of clergy abuse. The agreement also includes additional protocols for child safety—and promises the release of files on each of the three dozen credibly accused priests. In Pennsylvania, the Diocese of Pittsburgh anticipates closing multiple parochial schools, citing the financial burden of survivors’ compensation amid declining offertory money. Several recent polls indicate significant shifts in Catholic views of the hierarchy. In addition to diminishing confidence in the US bishops, a March 2019 Gallup poll revealed that 37 percent of American Catholics are questioning whether to remain in the church as a result of the sex abuse scan- dals specifically. Pope Francis himself admitted that the church’s “credibility has been seriously undercut and diminished by these sins and crimes, but even more by the efforts made to deny or conceal them.”

Meanwhile, California joined a host of other states in passing new laws expanding the statute of limitation on victims of sexual assault. When California temporarily suspended the statute of limitations, in the wake of church abuse scandals, the state saw hundreds of lawsuits against the church, totaling $1.2 billion in settlements.

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