WI--National paper compares 2 Catholic bankruptcies; Milwaukee looks bad
For immediate release: Wednesday, Feb. 24, 2016
An independent Catholic newspaper has compared church bankruptcies in Milwaukee WI and Helena MT. Predictably and rightfully, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki is exposed as particularly callous and foolishly litigious.
Both dioceses “faced two dozen lawsuits” and “established $21 million funds to compensate victims” though Milwaukee is much larger,” the National Catholic Reporter found, but
--Helena settled in 13 months” while “Milwaukee took nearly five years,”
--“Helena spent about $2.5 million on lawyers” while “Milwaukee's legal fees” were “$20 million”
--“Helena did not challenge the validity of any of the 362 claims” while “Milwaukee challenged each of the more than 575 claims,”
--Helena’s bishop said "a small number of claims appeared bogus” while Milwaukee’s archbishop challenged, to the end, the legal standing of each of the 575 claims” (while stubbornly claiming “bankruptcy was the only way to treat all equitably.”
A lawyer who has represented (victims) in 11 church bankruptcies, “including those of Milwaukee and Helena,” said “the lack of consultation on the part of the Milwaukee Archdiocese was almost unheard of in bankruptcy cases.”
Not surprisingly, Helena’s bishop “received praise from lawyers on the other side and from the judge who handled the case” and says “the relatively swift resolution has resulted in high priest morale and increased support by people in the community,” according to the NCR.
No one in the Milwaukee Catholic hierarchy can make that claim here.
We hope Wisconsin citizens and Catholics will read this report and learn more about how church officials elsewhere treat clergy sex abuse survivors more compassionately and less combatively than they do here in Milwaukee.
To Wisconsin victims, there’s little news here. To Wisconsin citizens and Catholics, however, there’s eye-opening information, if they’ll take the time to read this troubling comparison.
One key “take away” is this: those who see, suspect or suffer clergy sex crimes or cover ups in Wisconsin would do right by kids, and themselves, if they report to secular authorities, not church figures.
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 20,000 members. 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. Our website is SNAPnetwork.org)
In bankruptcy dealings, Helena diocese sets alternate example
Marie Rohde | Feb. 22, 2016
Bishop George Thomas admits that when his already struggling diocese in Helena, Mont., was hit with 30 lawsuits because of decades-old sexual abuse by priests, his instincts were to fight.
But that defensive posture fell away after he visited a victim's home for a family dinner, he said.
"I realized how soul-searing this has been for him," said Thomas, who has worked in community mental health. "While the abuse was decades ago, the suffering is in the present."
Eventually, the diocese faced 362 claims of sexual abuse and filed for bankruptcy, like a dozen other American dioceses have done. Unlike many of the others, Helena took "the road less traveled," as Thomas put it.
"We chose mediation and conciliation over acrimony and litigation," Thomas said. "Every day, I am affirmed that this was the best way to go."
The approach stands in stark contrast to that taken by the Milwaukee archdiocese, a much larger diocese.
While the Helena bankruptcy was filed, settled and approved in 13 months after only three hours in court, the Milwaukee case took . . .
50 State AG Call for Grand Jury
Any investigation must be:
- independent of and separate from the church
- must have subpoena powers and ability to compel testimony under oath
Anything short of these criteria is a sham and whitewash.
In addition, write letters to the editor, make phone calls to politicians as they can apply pressure to keep them responsive to our demand. We need to make efforts to ensure that they follow up on what the state is doing to investigate these crimes.
The Attorneys General of forty states have inquired about the grand jury process in Pennsylvania. Let's get statewide investigations going in fifty states.
Note to Letter Writers
Use your own words and style of writing. Cut and paste from the templates as you wish. Include your experiences, whether as a survivor or as a member of the community. And relate your letter to the state you were abused in or state now living in.