NEW ULM, Minn. (AP) — A bankruptcy judge on Tuesday approved a $34 million settlement between the Diocese of New Ulm in Minnesota and nearly 100 people who say they were sexually abused by priests and others.
Bishop John LeVoir apologized to sexual abuse survivors during the hearing, where U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Robert Kressel gave final approval to the settlement. Several survivors of clergy sexual abuse testified tearfully at the hearing, the Star Tribune reported.
“I apologize again on behalf of the church to all who have been harmed by clergy sexual abuse,” LeVoir said.
The diocese serving Catholics in southern and west-central Minnesota also agreed to implement 17 child protection protocols.
Attorney Jeff Anderson of St. Paul, who represents many of the survivors, told The Associated Press that both the settlement and the hearing were “powerful.”
“This is a massive cleanup of a massive cover-up,” Anderson said. He said survivors could start receiving compensation in May.
The diocese filed for bankruptcy protection three years ago and reached the settlement last June. All 93 claimants have approved terms of the settlement, the Star Tribune reported.
In court and in a letter to local Catholics, LeVoir thanked the survivors for coming forward.
“The courage that claimants showed in coming forward to share how the Church failed them has changed our Church for the better. Our ministry is safer for children and young people, our practices and policies are now more open and transparent, and we are more humble,” the bishop wrote.
Of the $34 million settlement, $26 million comes from diocesan and parish insurance coverage; $7 million in cash contributions from the diocese, including cash from a $2 million mortgage on the Pastoral Center; and $1 million contributed by all parishes within the diocese, including parishes that were not sued, the diocese said.
The diocese previously agreed to release the names of priests credibly accused of sex abuse, Anderson said.
The New Ulm diocese is among several Roman Catholic dioceses in Minnesota that have filed for bankruptcy protection amid child sex abuse claims or are considering it.