Clergy sex abuse survivors vote against archdiocese's compensation plan

The survivors got to vote which of the two proposals they prefer.

Hundreds of victims of clergy sex abuse in Minnesota took a vote on two different plans to compensate survivors – with the one proposed by the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis getting overwhelmingly rejected.

There were 406 people, all victims of sex abuse, who took part in the voting, the attorney's office representing the victims said. Of those, 94 percent were in favor of a plan put together by the creditors' committee – that's a group representing the people who are owed money.

And 93 percent rejected the Archdiocese's option.

"We applaud all the courageous survivors who have come forward to speak their truth. Your voices have been heard,” the attorney, Jeff Anderson, said in a statement.

The plan they voted for would require the Archdiocese to use $80 million of its own funds to pay settlements with victims. And it would leave the door open for individual survivors to try to get more money through insurance companies or other claims, Anderson Advocates said.

The Archdiocese defends its plan

The Archdiocese has a different take, with Archbishop Bernard Hebda saying in a statement its proposal would have not only provided $155 million to claimants, but also ended the lengthy court process.

No more legal proceedings or "uncertainty," as Hebda put it.

Hebda also said the longer this goes, the more the attorneys' fees and court costs grow – taking away settlement funds that could otherwise go to victims.

There are still some court proceedings to go before this is all finalized, the Archdiocese also noted.

This vote came about because of a judge's ruling in December of 2016. Anderson Advocates said this is the first time a religious order or Diocesan bankruptcy case in which two competing plans were put against each other in a vote.

The background

All of this stems from a long-running clergy sex abuse scandal.

It eventually led to criminal charges being filed by the Ramsey County Attorney's Office against the archdiocese in June of 2015, on accusations the organization failed to protect children from being abused.

Those charges were later dropped after the archdiocese admitted its failures publicly, and agreed on a number of safeguards and new oversight strategies to ensure it doesn't happen again.

During the case, hundreds of civil claims were filed by people who said they were sexually abused by someone within the church. The saga forced the archdiocese to file for bankruptcy, and led to the ouster of former Archbishop John Nienstedt.

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