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Settlement reached between archdiocese sex abuse victims

Thursday, May 31st, for a certain Jamie Heutmaker, was worth the wait even though it had to take 49 years.

A sunny day in the year 1969, Heutmaker who was 14 was sexually abused along with one of his fellow student by an unsuspecting priest from St Paul Minneapolis Archdiocese.

Although the conduct of Rev. Jerome Kern was immediately reported to the church officials by Jamie's parents, it wasn't until recently that justice had prevailed.

Now 62, Heutmaker said "it feels great to be standing here," amidst tears and other survivors of the sexual abuse. They gathered in front of the law office in St Paul on that Thursday. Heutmaker continued, "I never envisioned that this will be the outcome all through my life. It's been 49 years since the painful incidents. I just want to say I am grateful."

With Jeff Anderson and their attorneys in hand, the group stood together to announce the $210 million agreed between the 450 Victims and Archdiocese of St. Paul.

The agreement took the best part of three years in a bankruptcy court before coming into actualization. Both sides sought to agree on the fee to be paid by the archdiocese to the victims who had to endure sexual abuse and cover-up by the archdiocesan staff.

For survivors like Heutmaker, the conflict had started even before the legal sparring began.

Heutmaker thanked his attorney's, friends, parents, wife and fellow victims and survivors for staying by his side as he struggled with committing suicide and anxiety.

As they discussed the resolution, Anderson cried as he hugged the Heutmaker and the other survivors. The settlement was reached by both sets of attorneys, creditor's committee members as well as a group comprising of five abused victims.

"This story right here is one of trauma and victory," said Anderson as they neared the settlement agreement. It is the largest settlement reached by an archdiocese in bankruptcy.

  • • The agreed Funds will eventually be shared
    Couple of weeks from now, will see officials from both parties iron out the remaining details of the settlement, pending the approval of a federal bankruptcy court. The chairman of the recognition task force mentioned that the $210 million agreed will be kept in as a trust fund and shared to the survivors in the coming weeks by an independent trustee. $40 million of the settlement will be generated from within the archdioceses while about $170 of the settlement will come from insurers.
  • • Protection of Children
    A far greater achievement than the money agreed is the protection now afforded for various kids in the archdiocese and also the revelation of staffs and priests who have in one way or the other abused children or hidden their heinous acts, the survivors and Anderson said on Thursday
  • • Change of state law promoted the lawsuits
    After lawmakers in Minnesota passed a law which created a 3-year window allowing victims of previous sexual abuse to come forward and file a claim in 2013, the Archdiocese faced several lawsuits. This made claims that would otherwise been invalid, to become valid.

The bombardment of lawsuits forced the archdiocese in 2015 to file for a chapter 11 bankruptcy, making it the 12th archdiocese or dioceses in the US to file such.

Report from BishopAccountability.org, a website which monitors clergy sex abuse reported cases, indicates that this still remains the biggest payout to be filed as regards bankruptcy protection amongst the Roman Catholic Dioceses and Archdiocese.

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