Wednesday, August 05, 2015

Milwaukee's Rancorous Catholic Church Abuse Case May Finally Be Settled

AUGUST 05, 2015 5:17 AM ET



Milwaukee's Rancorous Catholic Church Abuse Case May Finally Be Settled AUGUST 05, 2015 5:17 AM ET from WPR 

DAVID GREENE, HOST: And we are turning now to Milwaukee, Wis., and a case that involves accusations of sexual abuse by priests and also bankruptcy. The Catholic Archdiocese in Milwaukee says it has reached a $21 million agreement with a committee of creditors. They include those who say they suffered abuse. Advocates for many of the victims are criticizing this tentative deal. Chuck Quirmbach, of Wisconsin Public Radio, reports.

CHUCK QUIRMBACH, BYLINE: The Milwaukee Archdiocese filed for bankruptcy protection four-and-a-half years ago. What's followed in federal bankruptcy court has been the church's determined effort to dismiss many clergy abuse claims made over many years. It has also been a long fight over whether the victims could get access to more than $50 million former Milwaukee Archbishop and now New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan transferred into a cemetery trust fund. The creditors and church have now announced a $21 million settlement of the bankruptcy case that makes partial use of the cemetery money. Archdiocese Chief of Staff Jerry Topczewski says no amount of cash can restore what was taken from abused survivors, but he says the church also wants to look ahead.

JERRY TOPCZEWSKI: For us now I think this settlement represents, you know, a new day, a kind of renewal, a rebirth, that lets the church return to its focus on spiritual leadership.

QUIRMBACH: Attorneys for the creditors say they agreed to the deal to prevent the case from being drawn out longer and incurring additional fees for the bankruptcy attorneys. Victims claim the Milwaukee Archdiocese has already paid its lawyers more money than the pool of victims covered under the settlement would receive. Monica Barrett, sexually abused by a priest as a child, is no fan of the agreement.

MONICA BARRETT: There is no hope. There is no forgiveness. There is no healing in this.

QUIRMBACH: Barrett and hundreds of other victims were dismissed from the case by the court. She says she's not sure what current Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki expects of them to do.

BARRETT: I don't know how he can rationalize in his mind or his heart that there is any kind of justice that will come through this.

QUIRMBACH: National leaders of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP, are also dismayed. They say the Milwaukee Archdiocese has exploited the Chapter 11 bankruptcy process to conceal the names of hundreds of clerics who committed and concealed heinous crimes against children. Federal bankruptcy Judge Susan Kelley is expected to review the proposed bankruptcy settlement at a hearing in November. For NPR News, I'm Chuck Quirmbach in Milwaukee.

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