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Duluth diocese files for bankruptcy in wake of sex abuse scandal


Ongoing financial pressure over decades-old clergy sex abuse cases has forced another Catholic Church diocese in Minnesota to file for bankruptcy.

This time, it's the Diocese of Duluth, which on Monday filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection "on an emergency basis" in order to reorganize, according to a news release.

This is a result of last month's sex abuse case involving "Doe 30," who was awarded more than $8 million in damages by a jury. The plaintiff's lawsuit claimed he had been abused by a priest at St. Catherine’s Church in Squaw Lake, Minnesota, in the late 1970s.

His case was the first to be brought under Minnesota's Child Victims Act, which temporarily removed the statute of limitations on sex abuse to allow victims to sue years, even decades after the fact.

Doe 30 won $8.4 million in damages. The church was ultimately only responsible for around half of that, the release says. But because the diocesan operating budget was much less than that – around $3.2 million – "the necessity of this (bankruptcy filing) became clear."

The diocese assured that it will continue in "good faith" to help abuse victims and continue the church's mission.

"The decision to file today safeguards the limited assets of the Diocese and will ensure that the resources of the Diocese can be shared justly with all victims," a statement read.

The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis, the largest archdiocese of the Catholic Church in Minnesota, also filed for bankruptcy protection this year, after settling with a number of clergy sex abuse victims for millions of dollars in a landmark case.

In October, the archdiocese was criminally charged for the first time over sex abuse, with prosecutors alleging it had failed to protect children from pedophile clergy members.

More than a dozen dioceses in the U.S. have sought bankruptcy protection in relation to sex abuse scandals.

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