Whistleblower files claim against archdiocese for defamation

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A former employee of the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis who went public with concerns over how the local church was handling clergy sex abuse cases has filed a claim against the archdiocese in bankruptcy court.

Jennifer Haselberger's claim is for at least $50,000 in damages for defamation of character, MPR News reports.

She filed the claim on Monday, which was the court-imposed deadline for filing claims against the archdiocese as it reorganizes its finances under bankruptcy protections.

Haselberger was the archdiocese's chancellor for canonical affairs when she resigned in April 2013, and shortly afterward went public with her accusations that the archdiocese had covered up decades of clergy sex abuse.

In a post on her blog, Haselberger wrote Tuesday that she has not sued the archdiocese, but filed the claim by the Aug. 3 deadline to reserve her right to do so at some point.

Haselberger said her claim is based on "multiple incidences" of defamation that have occurred over the past year, although she didn't provide any specifics, the Associated Press notes.

Haselberger also wrote that while she is contemplating legal action, she is not doing so for "personal enrichment."

"If I do pursue a claim for damages my intention is to use any award in furtherance of the goal of ensuring that the Archdiocese of Saint Paul and Minneapolis becomes a safe and welcoming place for all individuals. I have a very specific idea about one step that can be taken towards accomplishing this, and my intention is to use any award as seed money for that project."

As of the Monday 5 p.m. deadline, 655 claims against the archdiocese had been filed, with more than 400 of them relating to sex abuse.

What now?

Now that all the claims have been filed, the archdiocese and its insurance companies will review them and negotiate how much money insurers will put into a fund for victims.

Mike Finnegan, an attorney with the Jeff Anderson law firm, tells the Pioneer Press the insurance companies are “absolutely fighting back” at the negotiating table and the archdiocese has already taken some insurers to court.

The amount that insurance companies must pay could also be affected by the outcome of a criminal case against the archdiocese, which argues officials turned a blind eye to clergy sex abuse.

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