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Hundreds of claims over clergy abuse filed by deadline in Twin Cities archdiocese bankruptcy

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MINNEAPOLIS — Victims of alleged sexual abuse by clergy in the Archdiocese of St. Paul and Minneapolis have filed more than 400 claims against the archdiocese in federal bankruptcy court, according to attorneys for victims and the archdiocese.

The claims were filed by Monday, the deadline imposed by the bankruptcy court. The archdiocese filed a petition for Chapter 11 reorganization in January, as it faced the potential for more than 100 lawsuits stemming from allegations of clergy sexual abuse.

On Tuesday, victims' attorney Mike Finnegan said more than 650 claims were filed overall, including claims from parishes and others. Archdiocese attorney Charlie Rogers put the total number of claims at 669. Victims make up 407 of that number.

One claim that became public Tuesday was filed by Jennifer Haselberger, the former archdiocese employee who resigned over a mismanagement of clergy sexual abuse cases and then went public with her concerns. Haselberger's claim said she's seeking not less than $50,000 for defamation.

Haselberger said in an email to The Associated Press that the claim relates to multiple incidences dating to June of 2014. She didn't provide specifics, but said her filing is a notice that she has a claim against the archdiocese, and she might seek legal remedy.

"I filed, as did many others, because I think it is essential to hold the Archdiocese accountable for its actions and especially for the actions of its agents," she said in the email. "I am not seeking personal enrichment. If I would pursue a claim for damages my intention would be to use any award in furtherance of the goal of ensuring that the Archdiocese becomes a safe and welcoming place for all individuals."

The archdiocese had no immediate comment on specific claims.

The court will continue to assess the archdiocese's assets and determine how many claims might be covered by insurance. A victims fund will be established to settle claims.

Finnegan told the Minneapolis Star Tribune that the 400 claims by victims represent the third highest number filed against a Catholic institution in bankruptcy court. That's partly due to the size of the archdiocese, which includes roughly 800,000 Catholics over 12 counties. More victims' claims were filed in bankruptcy cases against the archdiocese of Milwaukee and against the Jesuits of the Oregon Province, which serves Alaska and the northwest United States.

The archdiocese of Boston and Los Angeles had more than 500 victims' claims, but they did not seek protection in bankruptcy court.

The recent claims in Minnesota are the result of a law that gave victims of prior child sex abuse a three-year window to seek legal action. Bankruptcy Court Judge Robert Kressel ordered an Aug. 3 deadline for filing claims against the archdiocese, but victims in other dioceses or institutions across the state have until next May 25 to sue under the state law.

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