WI--Milwaukee's 575 victims of clergy child sex assault preparing for Monday's final bankruptcy settlement hearing

WI--Milwaukee's 575 victims of clergy child sex assault preparing for Monday's final bankruptcy settlement hearing

Milwaukee's 575 victims of clergy child sex assault preparing for Monday's final bankruptcy settlement hearing

Plan will leave major issues, including identities, case histories and locations of dozens of alleged offenders secret

Settlement will also stop investigation into former Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s $60 million Cemetery “Fraud” Trust

WHO/WHAT

Victim/survivors of childhood rape, sexual assault and abuse by priests of the Milwaukee Archdiocese will be attending a final confirmation hearing for the nearly five year old Milwaukee archdiocese bankruptcy and will be conducting a press conference on the steps of the Federal Courthouse after the hearing.  Survivors are also available for comment this weekend (see contact information below).   

WHEN

Monday, November 9; hearing is scheduled to start at 9:00 a.m.

WHERE

Courtroom of Federal Bankruptcy Judge Susan V Kelley, 517 E. Wisconsin Ave., Milwaukee

WHY

Nearly five years ago, some 575 victims of child sexual assault by clergy filed cases into Federal Bankruptcy Court in Milwaukee at the urging of Archbishop Jerome Listecki, for “healing and resolution”.  In total, victims reported in excess of 8,000 acts of criminal sexual abuse over several decades by at least 150 clergy (diocesan and religious order), teachers and lay ministers.

Court ordered release of over 60,000 pages of internal church documents during the course of the bankruptcy confirmed what was long known, suspected or revealed in previous criminal and civil court cases:  that the archdiocese, under several archbishops and often with the knowledge of top Vatican officials had been engaged in a long standing, wide spread and systemic cover of up childhood sex crimes.  In fact, a clergy child molester, according to documents, has been assigned or worked in each of the over 250 parishes and schools operated by the church .

On Monday, November 9, Bankruptcy Judge Susan V Kelley is expected to approve a settlement plan between creditors and the archdiocese, a decision that will effectively bring an end to the bankruptcy.  At the urging of attorneys, the Creditors Committee, which represents victims, has voted in favor of the settlement, and most creditors are expected to follow their recommendation.  The archdiocese had taken the position that it would spend down the remaining money in the estate in litigation if victims did not agree to the offer.  The archdiocese also threatened to remove a significant portion of victims from any compensation whatsoever. 

The bankruptcy will be the longest and most legally expensive of all sex abuse bankruptcies in the country, with the lowest victim settlements and the highest lawyers’ fees and percentages in US history:  over twice the amount of money will be going to a handful of lawyers than all of the 575 victims that filed cases.

But the unprecedented proportion of money landing in the pockets of lawyers is just one of the many troubling aspects that have emerged from the bankruptcy.  Several key issues, some which directly concern public safety, potential criminal conduct, and the financial integrity of church officials will now remain unexamined, uninvestigated and unresolved by the court, particularly alarming because under Wisconsin law clergy and church officials can keep “secret” any knowledge they have of child sex crimes or cover ups. 

Specifically:    

--There will be no investigation of the highly publicized transfer by former Archbishop Timothy Dolan of nearly $60 million dollars into a "cemetery trust" before the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy. Based on the timing of the trust and church internal documents, the move was likely fraudulent (significantly, the archdiocese filed chapter 11 in the first place because of state court fraud cases). Documents contain what appears to be direct evidence of intent, which is a criminal offense:  a signed letter from Dolan to the Vatican obtaining Papal permission to set up the trust to keep the money from court ordered liability settlements. 

--Detailed, written victim reports of criminal sexual abuse were filed by each of the nearly 575 claimants. These reports are under a court seal and appear not to have been referred for investigation to the proper law enforcement authorities (or at least fully reviewed by law enforcement). There is strong evidence (particularly from a 2012 Wauwatosa police investigation) that even while under chapter 11 bankruptcy, the archdiocese was not referring serious sexual abuse reports to law enforcement and leaving potential abusers in ministry.

--When filing for bankruptcy and for nine months until the bar date, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki publicly and repeatedly stated the reason for the bankruptcy was to fairly compensate victims of sexual abuse. Yet, after that date, the archdiocese has argued in oral presentations and written briefs that "none" of the 575 cases filed by victim/creditors are "legally valid".  The original chapter 11 filing has not been challenged or investigated for being filed in bad faith. 

--Victims have been left totally at the mercy of the archdiocese "substantiating" their child rape or sexual assault "claim” and many will be receiving as little as $2,000 dollars.

--A “therapy” fund is being established under the complete control of the archdiocese (the very corporation responsible for concealing and transferring the clergy who assaulted those now needing treatment).  This sets a dangerous precedent that uses bankruptcy court to allow church officials to create their own mechanism to control the clinical and mental health treatment of survivors.   

CONTACT

Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director (Milwaukee) 414.49-7259 (peterisely@yahoo.com)

Survivors in the bankruptcy available for comment:

Monica Barrett (414.704.6074; 1lmbarrett@gmail.com)

Peter Loberg  (414.881.5831; peteloberg@yahoo.com)

Dan Ograndowski (262.347.9672; danno_469@yahoo.com)

Jim Essenberg (971.226.4592; james.essenberg@frontier.com)

Nick Janovski (813.391.8291; nicolas.janovsky@gmail.com)

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 18,000 members worldwide. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Visit us at SNAPnetwork.org and SNAPwisconsin.com 

 

    

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