Diocese of Winona-Rochester to file for bankruptcy after sex abuse claims

ROCHESTER, Minn. (KTTC) – The Catholic Diocese of Winona-Rochester will file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy by the end of the month following multiple claims of clergy sex abuse.

Chapter 11 is a specific type of bankruptcy that allows the Diocese to restructure so it can divide its assets among its creditors.

“As part of this healing, it is incumbent upon us to create a path forward that provides just compensation for the victims of abuse. This must include public acknowledgment of their pain and an apology for it as well as financial compensation,” Bishop John Quinn said in a statement to parishioners released over the weekend.

The Diocese is facing 121 pending claims of clergy sex abuse by 14 priests who have been credibly accused of sexual misconduct with children from the 1960s through the 1980s.

The Diocese disclosed the names of the priests in 2013: Thomas Adamson, Sylvester Brown, Joseph Cashman, Louis Cook, William Curtis, John Feiten, Richard Hatch, Ferdinand, Leo Koppala, Jack Krough, Michael Kuisle, James Lennon, Leland Smith, and Robert Taylor.

They include a high school principal, parish priests, a hospital chaplain, and seminary instructors. All of whom have either died or been suspended from the ministry. 11 of them served in Rochester parishes.

One lawsuit includes Father Richard Hatch who sexually abused a 13-year-old boy in 1962 while serving as a priest at Saint Mary’s Catholic Church and School in Winona. The suit alleges the Diocese knew about Father Hatch being a possible sexual abuser at the time, citing a 1964 letter from then diocesan chancellor Monsignor Emmett Tighs, in which he said that Hatch was “a very disturbed man.”

Quinn, in his statement, said the Diocese is committed to creating an environment of healing for these victims and their families.

“This legal process will allow us to reorganize diocesan finances in order to provide financial compensation to the survivors,” he said.

During the Chapter 11 filing, assets are scrutinized, claims are made and the court decides who gets what. Operations of parishes and Catholic schools will continue.

Quinn added that the Diocese has taken “important measures to protect our children” at its schools and parishes by requiring clergy, employees, and volunteers to participate in the VIRTUS “Protecting God’s Children for Adults Program” to identify signs of child sexual abuse.

The Winona-Rochester diocese includes 20 counties and serves more than 131,000 Catholics.

The diocese’s announcement comes as Minnesota Catholics confront growing allegations of clergy sexual misconduct that had gone unreported to the public and unpunished by the church for several decades.

Dioceses in Duluth and New Ulm, as well as the Archdiocese of St.Paul and Minneapolis, filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy in 2015. The Archdiocese has agreed to pay a $210 million settlement to more than 400 victims of clergy sexual abuse, the largest bankruptcy payouts to date in the U.S. over the Catholic Church’s priest abuse scandal.

So far, 18 Catholic dioceses and religious orders have filed for bankruptcy protection during the ongoing sexual abuse crisis in the Catholic church, according to Bishopaccountability.org which tracks sex abuse claims in dioceses.

Bishop Quinn and Father Gerald Mahon who leads the Diocese’s Co-Cathedral declined to comment when KTTC contacted them.

Linda Ha

Linda Ha

Reporter | @LindaHaTV | lha@kttc.com

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