WI--Archdiocesan lawyers' $5 million Christmas gift

For immediate release Thursday, December 18 2014

Statement by Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director 414.429.7259

It’s the season for giving and no one has found a way, as the saying goes, to make sure “to give back to yourself first” than the lawyers of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee who filed today a proposed $10 million settlement with insurers (one of them aptly named “Stonewall”) in the longest and most victim bashing bankruptcy in church history.  Of the $10 million, lawyers made sure half of that amount will go to themselves, with total legal and court fees now topping over $18 million and no end in sight.  I suppose we can safely conclude that after almost four years where justice for victims has not been pursued much in court, we can always have confidence the billable hours will be.    

The archdiocese describes the deal in commercial terms as a “tremendous value”.  But for whom? And what values are being extolled?  Gospel values?   

Most importantly, what of the 575 victims of childhood rape, sexual assault and abuse by dozens of Catholic clergy who filed cases into bankruptcy court?  If Judge Susan V. Kelley approves the new settlement, $5 million will be added to an already proposed $4 million making available a total of $9 million in victim restitution.  That’s about $15,000 thousand per victim and, if you figure about a dozen lawyers working in earnest, more or less, that’s about $1.2 million per lawyer. But, again, the fees are still rising. 

This is why local survivor, clergy leaders and advocates last month wrote a detailed letter to Pope Francis asking for an investigation of the archdiocesan bankruptcy debacle.  No one except lawyers are really being served by this proposal.  And whatever one thinks of Pope Francis, this settlement is clearly in complete opposition and even defiance of his repeated call for justice for victims of priest abuse, fair compensation (if necessary through the civil courts) for those harmed, and an insistence that Cardinals, bishops and archbishops must stop evading accountability and responsibility for the consequences of these crimes. 

(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We were founded in 1988 and have 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)

Contact - David Clohessy, 314-566-9790, [email protected], Barbara Dorris 314-503-0003, [email protected], Barbara Blaine 312-399-4747, [email protected]

Addendum: The Archdiocese of Milwaukee misleadingly indicated in their characterization of the proposed settlement to the Wall Street Journal that they we "adding" $10 million "in value" to the bankruptcy reorganization plan with the new filing. While the lawyers for the church are still taking half of that, the actual amount added to the survivors' trust is only 1.1 million, not $5 million. $8 million of this amount had already been agreed to. The proposed total for 575 survivors is actually $5.1 million or $18 million (at this point) for lawyers and less than $9,000 per survivor in restitution.

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