NEW ULM, Minn. -- After tearful testimony by several survivors of clergy sexual abuse and a heartfelt apology from Bishop John LeVoir, the Catholic Diocese of New Ulm and area churches won approval Tuesday of a $34 million settlement with nearly 100 claimants.
Just as important to the victims: The diocese agreed to adopt 17 protocols designed to protect children from abuse going forward and to turn over its files on credibly accused priests.
Nineteen people -- abuse survivors and their supporters -- stood inside a Brown County courtroom to witness the resolution of the Diocese's bankruptcy case and hear a formal apology from LeVoir from the witness stand.
"I apologize again on behalf of the church to all who have been harmed by clergy sexual abuse," LeVoir said.
He said he hoped that settlement and the adoption of child protection protocols would help them heal and provide some peace of mind.
"I pray for this daily knowing we can never truly compensate you" for the years of suffering endured, LeVoir said, thanking them for coming forward with their stories. He said it was their courage that forced church leaders to "face what we did and what we failed to do.
"We should have taken responsibility and shared the truth on our own," LeVoir said.
Steven Condon, a Texas resident who was abused as a boy when he lived in Silver Lake, Minn., said joining the lawsuit was the hardest decision of his life.
"It was difficult for me to go against the church I still faithfully followed," Condon said tearfully. "Yet as I had to atone for my sins, so, too, the church must atone for its sins."
He said no amount of compensation can erase what the abuse survivors have endured, some of whom could not bring themselves to come forward even now.