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Twin Cities archdiocese files for bankruptcy; archbishop calls it the 'fairest resource'

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The Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis has filed for bankruptcy as it prepares to handle a raft of lawsuits from victims of alleged clergy sexual abuse.

The Associated Press reports the archdiocese filed its petition Friday in the U.S Bankruptcy Court, becoming the 12th U.S diocese to seek bankruptcy protection in the wake of sex abuse claims.

Archbishop John Nienstedt released a letter, commenting on the decision.

In it, the embattled church leader says he made the bankruptcy decision because it is "the fairest and most helpful recourse for those victims/survivors who have made claims against us," as the church will be able to split up its resources equitably among all survivors.

He also says the church will continue focusing on efforts to resolve the issues, and protect children.

Three of the numerous lawsuits filed by purported victims are heading to court imminently, the Star Tribune reported prior to the bankruptcy announcement, and the archdiocese has previously indicated it has set aside just $5.3 million for clergy abuse victims.

Last year it reported a deficit of $9 million, and University of Minnesota law professor Christopher Soper told the newspaper: "When you have a combination of $9 million in debt and three court dates, bankruptcy is a potential way to address both of those problems."

MPR reports Friday's filing will put a halt to the coming trials, and the archdiocese is likely to have a few months to put forward a reorganization plan.

MPR says bankruptcy processes involving churches often end up "bitter, contentious, costly and dragging on for at least two to three years."

In November, the archdiocese announced cuts of 20 percent, including staff layoffs, in response to its budget problems, but said at the time this was not in response to the pending lawsuits.

Last year it was reported that the archdiocese had paid out around $11 million between 2002 and 2011 to pay for infractions without attracting attention - including the removal of priests who committed child sex abuse.

In December 2013, it released a list featuring the names of 34 priests accused of sexual abuse, and that it had substantiated claims against 30 of these.

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