Courts & Crime

Alaska diocese to pay $10 million to sex abuse victims

The Catholic Diocese of Fairbanks is emerging from bankruptcy under a plan that will provide nearly $10 million — and maybe much more — to sexual abuse victims, send the bishop traveling to parishes where abuse occurred, and put names of suspected abusers on the diocese Web site.

Under the plan for reorganization, $9.8 million will go into a fund for close to 300 victims. Another $2.5 million is going to lawyers, accountants and other professionals. Payments to individuals will be decided case-by-case by a mediator, depending on a variety of factors including the nature and severity of abuse, the age of the victim at the time it started, and whether the perpetrator was in a position of trust.

U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Donald MacDonald approved the plan at a hearing Monday morning in Anchorage.

"I've never had a case like this in my nearly 20 years on the bench," the judge told the lawyers and Catholic church leaders gathered in court. The sexual abuse claims made this bankruptcy especially challenging, he said.

The diocese filed for reorganization in March 2008 in the wake of more than 100 state-court lawsuits accusing priests and volunteers of sexual abuse. After the bankruptcy case was filed, the claims grew. Many arise from abuse decades ago.

Most creditors supported the plan, including 256 out of 258 clergy sexual abuse victims who voted on it.