WI--Milwaukee Catholic lawyers and judges celebrate themselves with the Archbishop as firms reap enormous bankruptcy profits

Statement by Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director (Milwaukee)

CONTACT:  414.429.7259; peterisely@yahoo.com

This evening at the Milwaukee Catholic cathedral and later at a downtown country club, Catholic lawyers, judges and lawmakers will be processing to the altar with Archbishop Jerome Listecki to celebrate and honor themselves at what is called an annual “Red Mass”.  Apparently in the middle ages when every judge was a Catholic, they wore red robes, hence the name.     

They will, of course, also be gathering around the bronze frieze of former Archbishop Rembert Weakland depicting himself as a protector of little children, who for over 25 years  (detailed in some 60,000 pages of court ordered release church documents), was the principle architect of the cover up of thousands of child sex crimes, over 8,000 documented in reports according to records, by dozens and dozens of sex offending clerics. 

How ironic is it that lawyers, judges and lawmakers are gathering, especially now, when 575 Milwaukee victim cases are still languishing in federal bankruptcy court for almost five years.  Bankruptcy will soon be coming a close, but not closing with justice.  Lawyers will be taking away the most obscene profits from victim cases in US history.  Twice as much money will be pocketed by lawyers than will be providing restitution to all victims combined, over two-thirds of the “winnings”, with $19.5 million to church and bankruptcy lawyers (charging anywhere from $450 to $995 dollars a billable hour), $4.5 million for lawyers to lose a federal appeal to protect a likely fraudulent trust set up by former Archbishop Timothy Dolan.

This is hardly the time for Catholic lawyers to celebrate their boom year of profits at the expense of victims of childhood sexual abuse by clergy.  Isn’t it more fitting that they pray today for repentance, lower their fees and return some of that money to survivors?  And instead of feasting at a country club, how about serving and having supper with the poor at St. Benedict’s meal program, which is conveniently located across from the courthouse?

It’s not likely that the famous Gospel story of Jesus overturning the money tables in the temple, an action of defiance and resistance of capital that directly led to his death, will be the Gospel story proclaimed by Listecki, himself a lawyer, this evening.  But it wouldn’t be a bad idea. 

Just like the testimony of survivors, the word of Jesus is hard to hear.  His desire for justice pierces the legal mumbling and procedures of the law and lawyerly self-congratulations.  Sometimes, that desire is betrayed for a buck, as with Judas.  Other times, even the most ardent disciple, like Peter, whose name bears the chair which is placed at the center of the Catholic tradition, simply fall asleep when Jesus needs him awake. 

In the Christian faith the word of Jesus survived his death in the event they name the resurrection, an event around which the early Christians staked their comfort, their social standing, and in some cases their very lives.  They forged together a fighting community of solidarity with the forgotten, the outcast, the unwanted. 

Today, one can only hope that the word of Jesus can still be heard tonight and open the hearts of lawyers and judges that they might realize that the word has been made present in the witness and testimony of Milwaukee survivors, in spite of a legal cadre that has so battered and battled them. 

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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