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Milwaukee Archdiocese Files For Bankruptcy Over Child Sex Abuse Lawsuits

01/06/11-by Bridgette P. LaVictoire
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is seeking bankruptcy protection over pending lawsuits regarding the sexual abuse of children by priests whose crimes were later covered up by the Church. It is feared that this filing may be little more than a delaying tactic, according to the lawyer who filed many of the suits, and that this is a way to avoid opening its records for public scrutiny. This tactic has been used in other locations to do just that. Archbishop Jerome Listecki, however, feels that the bankruptcy protection will allow the church to continue its work while making sure that other victims receive their compensation. He also expressed deep shame over the abuse.

Listecki has said:

“In my installation homily on Jan. 4, 2010, I spoke of the devastation of sin and its effect on us personally and as a community. We see the result of that sin today. This action is occurring because priest-perpetrators sexually abused minors, going against everything the church and the priesthood represents.”

It has been pointed out that many within the hierarchy, and especially Pope Benedict, have spent almost no time with the victims of abuse, and that they continue to cover up the crimes of priests who molest children often with abrupt movement of priests from one assignment to another. In Ireland, the Vatican pushed to have the names of child molesting priests expunged from various reports.

Milwaukee becomes the eighth US dioceses to seek bankruptcy protection since the clergy sexual abuse scandal erupted onto the national and international scene in 2002. So far, Davenport, Iowa; Fairbanks, Alaska; Portland, Oregon; San Diego; Spokane, Washington; Tucson, Arizona; and Wilmington, Delaware, have all filed bankruptcy.

The announcement was not met very favorably by attorney Jeff Anderson of St. Paul. Anderson has filed twenty-three of the lawsuits and was set to depose Milwaukee Bishop Richard Sklba on Thursday. He feels that this was intended to delay that deposition. He said that this was common that other dioceses had filed bankruptcy just before the trials so as to avoid having to release information. Anderson and some of his clients have sought the release of the names of priests accused of sexual abuse and the church officials who have protected them. So far, the church has refused to do so. Mediation between the church and the victims failed last month, and that is, according to archdiocese spokesman Jerry Topczewski, is why this is going to bankruptcy court.

According to Huffington Post:

The archdiocese has assets of about $98.4 million but more than $90 million of that is designated for specific use by donors or otherwise restricted, according to its website. Its 210 parishes with 640,000 members are incorporated individually, so the bankruptcy won’t affect their finances, Topczewski said.

The reorganization under Chapter 11 of the U.S. bankruptcy code will allow the archdiocese to continue to conduct its normal activities, but a bankruptcy court will have to approve all non-routine decisions and expenses.

Topczewski also said:

“People should know this doesn’t mean we’re going out of business. This is a way to reorganize, to make sure we can continue to operate on stable financial grounds and meet our obligations to those who were harmed.”

The lawsuits include allegations against six priests, including against one who is alleged to have abused some 200 boys at a school for deaf students from 1950 to 1974.

Listecki has stated that the archdiocese has already done all it can to raise more cash:

“Since 2002, we have sold property, liquidated savings and investments, eliminated ministries and services, cut archdiocesan staff by nearly 40 percent, and put all available real estate on the market in order to free up resources.”

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5 Responses to Milwaukee Archdiocese Files For Bankruptcy Over Child Sex Abuse Lawsuits

  1. Jude

    January 6, 2011 at 8:08 am

    I’m from Wisconsin. What can I do to help? 

  2. balayogi

    January 6, 2011 at 2:57 am

    why not take the money that you send to asian and african countries to convert people o christianity and also rape innocent women 

  3. mike ference

    January 6, 2011 at 2:27 am

    Wrote this 3 years ago, it’s may be worth reprinting. I also attached the link to verify that it was published.

    Timing perfect for diocese

    Thursday, October 18, 2007

    To the Editor:

    September was a big month for the Pittsburgh Diocese. Thirty-two alleged survivors of clergy abuse are to split $1.25 million for crimes the Pittsburgh Diocese will never have to admit ever occurred.

    At least the settlement doesn’t tarnish the stellar reputation of Archbishop Donald Wuerl, who never had to pay a dime to any clergy abuse victim during his tenure as bishop in the Pittsburgh Diocese.

    Oddly enough, an underling — so to speak — Auxiliary Bishop Bradley saw the need to reconcile this situation, only weeks before Bishop David Zubik was to be installed as the new leader of the diocese. So it seems everything has fallen into place.

    Thirty-two survivors get a few bucks, the diocese is off the hook for any future civil or maybe even criminal suits based on the settlement. Wuerl goes back to Washington, D.C., to do whatever it is Archbishops do and Zubik is allowed to get a fresh start in the Pittsburgh Diocese without the interference of those civil suits that were resting in limbo the past few years.

    The settling of the civil suits certainly allowed for an impressive and dignified installation of Bishop Zubik, no hecklers or demonstrators from any groups with compassion for children sexually abused by Catholic priests.

    And although I have no proof, nor any way to calculate, I would be willing to bet the farm that more money was spent on Zubik’s festivities than was awarded to 32 survivors of alleged abuse by Pittsburgh Catholic Diocese priests. No big deal, the worst is over.

    Unless of course, somewhere down the road — maybe a year, a few months, a couple of weeks, or perhaps in the next few days — information turns up that the cases of sexual abuse actually occurred and that coverups were the norm in the Pittsburgh Diocese just like coverups and shifting priests from parish to parish was the norm in the archdiocese of Philadelphia.

    The Philadelphia Grand Jury investigation into the Archdiocese of Philadelphia issued a scathing report on Archbishop Anthony Bevilacqua and other church hierarchy. It should be noted that Bevilacqua served the Pittsburgh Diocese prior to being assigned to Philadelphia.

    Anyone with a little common sense would be concerned that a man of the cloth might be tempted to hide crimes of clergy sexual abuse of young children only on the eastern side of the commonwealth of Pennsylvania and not the western side as well.

    That’s a lot of if’s and’s or but’s — only time will tell. For now it’s three cheers for Bishop Zubik.

    Mike Ference


  4. Judy Jones

    January 5, 2011 at 7:33 pm

    We are beginning to see the truth about the REAL Archbishop Jerome Listecki.

    He claims his reasons for filing bankruptcy is “to be able to compensate victims and survivors while also allowing the church to continue its mission.”

    WRONG! The ‘real’ reasons for filing bankruptcy are so that Listecki and other former and current church officials of the Milwaukee Archdiocese:

    –can keep the dirty secrets fully in tact.
    –avoid diocese documents being subpoenaed.
    –avoid being subpoenaed to sit on that witness stand and dare to tell the truth, because there is a good chance someone could go to jail for perjury.

    Listecki, how on earth are you able to purposely drive another nail into victims who have already been treated so badly?

    All that survivors of clergy abuse wish for is for the truth to be exposed so they will be believed. They have been told enough times, “to keep quiet, get over it, don’t tell, no one will believe you anyway because a priest would never do such an awful thing to a child”

    …and now Archbishop Listecki, you have callously and manipulatively stopped them from having their day in court !!

    Another sad day for past and future children..!!!

    Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511
    “Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests”