Abuse Cost Twin Cities Archdiocese $3.1 Million

By Warren Wolfe
Star Tribune [Minnesota]
Downloaded February 22, 2003

Sexual abuse of children by priests has cost the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis about $3.1 million in the past 14 years, and its insurer has paid about $5 million more to settle lawsuits by victims, church officials said Thursday.

Of the $3.1 million, about 40 percent was for care and counseling of offending priests and those they abused, nearly as much went for legal fees and costs to settle one case a decade ago, and the rest was for special liability insurance.

About $700,000 -- the amount for liability insurance -- has come from the donations made by Roman Catholic parishioners, said Dennis McGrath, archdiocese spokesman.

The rest came from an 82-year-old Clergy Benefit Fund supported by private donations.

This is the archdiocese's first accounting of the costs of sexual abuse, and it was only coincidence that it came the same week as the start of the annual Archbishop's Appeal, seeking to raise $9.1 million for archdiocesan operations, McGrath said.

The accounting was completed some time ago, "but the archbishop insisted that we make sure, make absolutely sure, that it was correct," McGrath said. That delayed the announcement until Thursday, when it was published in the archdiocese's newspaper, the Catholic Spirit.

Questions from donors

McGrath noted that some Catholics in the archdiocese have expressed concern that money they give the church might pay the costs of misdeeds of its clergy.

"Sure, we're concerned about that perception," he said. "We want people to know that only 1/100th of a penny of what parishioners gave the church since 1992 went to those costs, and all of that was to pay for liability insurance."

Last year, the Archbishop's Appeal for $9 million fell about $350,000 short, McGrath said.

He said church officials believe that probably was caused by a weakening economy and some confusion among givers because there was a simultaneous capital campaign that raised more than $115 million for church and school renovations and other projects.

In other parts of the country, especially the Northeast, church collections and donations have been down among Catholics because of their anger over the national sex-abuse scandal that forced more than 400 priests from their jobs last year, and blame of the Catholic hierarchy for allowing the abuse to continue.

Until last year, the archdiocese had revealed some details only of sexual-abuse cases that resulted in lawsuits or criminal charges. Last year, as the archdiocese's leader, Archbishop Harry Flynn, led fellow bishops in developing a national sex-abuse policy, Flynn made public the names of three priests whom he removed from ministry because of misdeeds years earlier.

But it has not offered an accounting of the number of sexual-abuse allegations over the years or the outcome of its investigations into those cases.

$1.2 million for care

In the report Thursday, the largest single category of costs is $1.2 million for pastoral care of victims and abusive priests.

McGrath said it would be too complicated to separate out how much went to counsel and house the offending priests, and how much to support their victims.

The accounting also said that it spent about $630,000 in fees and court judgments in the case involving Thomas Adamson, a former priest of the Diocese of Winona who also served in the archdiocese. In addition, much of the archdiocese's $506,000 in abuse-related legal expenses came from the Adamson case, officials said.

The Clergy Benefit Fund that paid $2.4 million of the archdiocese's costs from sexual abuse was established in 1921 after the family of James J. Hill donated $125,000. Hill's daughter, Clara Hill Lindley, added $30,000 in 1949.

The fund originally was set up to pay retirement and health-care costs for priests -- functions now handled by other funds. It still helps pay for some nursing-home care for priests, housing for priests between jobs and other expenses.

Over the years, the fund has grown to millions through investment income and some small donations, including some from priests, McGrath said. The fund now has a balance of about $2.1 million.

A few other dioceses in the United States have offered accounting of sex-abuse costs, although most have included only amounts paid to victims.

For instance, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee said it has spend about $6.3 million in sex-abuse cases involving minors, and the Diocese of Madison, Wis., has paid $1.6 million to 19 victims in the past 20 years.

Last September, the Archdiocese of Boston agreed to pay $10 million to settle 84 lawsuits involving former priest John J. Geoghan, and it still faces more than 500 lawsuits.


Any original material on these pages is copyright © 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.