Time to rebuild trust
One of the most important messages to come out of the Dioceses of New Ulm’s Chapter 11 hearing on Tuesday was this — it doesn’t end here.
The diocese declared for Chapter 11 reorganization last year so it could negotiate a plan for compensating victims of clerical sex abuse in the diocese. Ninety-three victims had filed suit against the district during the three-year open period provided by state law from 2013 to 2016. If the diocese had to negotiate with each one individually, it would have eaten up all the diocese’s resources and left many without compensation.
The $34 million fund established in the plan will help those who have suffered over the years, but what really seemed to be important to those survivors attending the hearing Tuesday was not money, but the assurance that things would change. The diocese, at least, if not the whole Catholic Church, is no longer going to shuffle offending priests off to some other parish or diocese. There are 17 protocols set up in the agreement approved Tuesday that will make sure the diocese will do its utmost to protect children. Bishop John M. LeVoir promised the survivors, from the witness stand, that the diocese would rigorously follow those protocols.
The church’s sins of the past are not going to be forgotten, but the diocese is promising to take a new direction when it comes to protecting children from sexual abuse. It will take time and a lot of proof to rebuild the trust that has been damaged by past policies, but with Tuesday’s agreement, at least a new start is possible.