Diocese of Winona-Rochester to Pay More than $21 Million in Clergy Sex Abuse Claims
A Minnesota diocese has settled with scores of victims to the tune of $21 million over cases of clergy sexual abuse and cover-up. We hope the conclusion of these bankruptcy proceedings will lead to peace and healing for the brave survivors whose willingness to come forward forced a reckoning within the Diocese of Winona-Rochester.
145 survivors will be compensated following allegations against almost 20 priests – suggesting an average of 8 victims per abuser. We have no that doubt more will come forward as the science behind delayed disclosure in cases of child sexual abuse is clear: most survivors wait until an average age of 52 to come forward and report, while the vast majority of cases will go unreported to law enforcement period. To us, that means the victim count in this small diocese, while shocking, is certainly higher.
The Catholic Church’s “John Jay Study” from 2004 claimed a victim count of about 2.3 victims per abuser and also reported that nearly half of all abusive priests had "only" one victim. This bankruptcy, and other secular investigations such as that done by Pennsylvania AG Josh Shapiro, belies those claims. Most secular investigations show that perpetrators have multiple victims and the average is approximately 8 victims per abuser. With over 7,000 abusers now identified in the United States, the implied scope of clergy sexual abuse in the US is daunting.
The involvement of secular officials, as was done in Pennsylvania, universally paints a clearer picture of the extent of abuse within institutions. It is difficult to trust numbers that have been self-reported by bishops with inherent conflicts of interest and fealty to their fellow clerics. For example, the Diocese of Winona-Rochester published a list in 2013 that named the 13 abusive clerics acknowledged in the 2004 John Jay study. That list is now up to 18, nearly a 40% increase. Nationwide, we have seen evidence of this sort of underreporting in nearly every diocese in the country.
Making matters more complicated is the fact that Minnesota dioceses have also had an abusive bishop problem that leads to even greater concern about these numbers, as stark as they are. Four of the six Minnesota dioceses are associated with bishops who themselves are accused of sexual abuse. Our records indicate that six bishops accused of abuse either worked in or were ordained in Minnesota. These enormously powerful clerics have the power to prevent reporting about allegations against themselves and certainly cannot be trusted to honestly report on abuse within their dioceses.
These bishops accused of abuse have ties to Minnesota:
- Bishop Robert Brom is accused of abuse while the Bishop of Duluth. He also managed the bankruptcy of San Diego where he was accused of hiding assets from creditors.
- Bishop Leonard Cowley was an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and was sued for abuse.
- Bishop Harold Dimmerling, a bishop in South Dakota, was considered “credibly” accused of abuse in the Diocese of St. Cloud.
- Bishop Paul Vincent Dudley was an auxiliary bishop in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis and has been accused of abuse.
- Bishop-elect Michael Mulloy was forced to resign as bishop-elect of Duluth prior to taking office when he was accused last year of abuse in South Dakota.
- Former Minnesota Archbishop John Nienstedt is accused in New Ulm and elsewhere and has had his ministry restricted in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network, has been providing support for victims of sexual abuse in institutional settings for 30 years. We have more than 25,000 survivors and supporters in our network. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)