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Priest victims fault settlement plan, seek $80 million, not $13 million

ST. PAUL -- A group of sexual abuse victims who suffered at the hands of clergy in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis have filed a counter-plan for the proposed settlement.

ST. PAUL -- A group of sexual abuse victims who suffered at the hands of clergy in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis have filed a counter-plan for the proposed settlement.

The archdiocese’s plan, submitted to bankruptcy court in May, is “grossly underfunded and grossly deficient,” said attorney Jeff Anderson during a news conference Tuesday. Anderson is a St. Paul attorney representing hundreds of people claiming sexual abuse by priests.

The plan submitted by the survivors, as the Creditors’ Committee in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, would require the archdiocese to pay $80 million to victims instead of the $13 million it proposed.

“The reality is that what the Archdiocese did (in submitting its plan) … was a scam,” Anderson said. He also claimed that the archdiocese has vastly under-reported its true ability to pay and has sheltered funds.

In response, Archbishop Bernard Hebda noted in a statement Tuesday that both sides are in the process of negotiating a settlement.

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“The judge has asked all parties to negotiate in good faith, and that is what we are endeavoring to do,” Hebda said. “Our consistent goal remains the same: a fair and just resolution for all.”

In the past, Hebda has said that the archdiocese was fully cooperating in the bankruptcy case and had fairly disclosed all of its assets.

In the committee’s plan, $38 million in compensation would come from loans to be taken by the archdiocese against its assets, including schools and the Cathedral of St. Paul. More funding would be available to victims by cutting off the monthly stipends and pensions paid by the archdiocese to at least a “couple dozen” credibly accused priests removed from active ministry, Anderson said.

Anderson said that he did not know the exact amount paid to these priests by the church, but that the monthly payments were “several thousand” dollars to each priest and add up to “tens of thousands of dollars every month.”

The plan also calls for the release of a report investigating former Archbishop John Nienstedt and all correspondence between the archdiocese and the Vatican Embassy related to the report.

The counter-plan filed by the committee is the first of its kind to be filed by victims in connection with a religious order or diocese bankruptcy proceedings, Anderson said.

Other provisions in the plan include giving survivors the right to file suits against parishes separately, to appeal for the consolidation the archdiocese’s assets, and to try reclaiming payments made by the archdiocese before it filed for bankruptcy.

Anderson claims that the plan would not disrupt the archdiocese’s work or services.

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