WI--Milwaukee Federal judge Lynn Adelman offers to mediate church bankruptcy

Statement by Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director (Milwaukee) 414.429.7259

Survivors of rape and sexual assault by clergy of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee today are grateful that Milwaukee Federal Judge Lynn Adelman, in an unusual impromptu hearing today, has directly offered to mediate the deteriorating four year old Milwaukee Archdiocese bankruptcy case involving some 575 victim cases.     

The case has been handled so far by bankruptcy Judge Susan V Kelley and it is to Kelley that Adelman said he first made the offer. 

Survivors especially welcome the move if it means that Adelman will cut through the legal wrangling and stonewalling by the archdiocese so that survivors and legal experts can finally examine what they have long maintained is a fraudulently constituted $57 million dollar “cemetery trust” created by former Archbishop Timothy Dolan and the Vatican.  

A “smoking gun” letter surfacing among the bankruptcy documents and written by Dolan asks direct permission from the Vatican to establish the trust.  Dolan writes that the trust would specifically be created to shield the archdiocese from compensating victims of priest sex abuse by US courts.  Not long afterwards, Dolan was promoted to Cardinal of New York and the Milwaukee Archdiocese filed for chapter 11 bankruptcy. 

Not surprisingly, Adelman’s mediation offer comes just days after the lead lawyer for the archdiocese, Frank LoCoco, told the bankruptcy court that the church was prepared to deplete all its funds before compensating a single victim of clergy sex crimes.

LoCoco’s  remarks, which he characterized at the time as “candid,” represent, one can assume,  the sentiments of current Archbishop Jerome Listecki.  They are utterly consistent with the plan the archdiocese has had all along:  to use bankruptcy court to dodge accountability for a decades long pattern and practice of shielding and transferring known child sex offenders without providing restitution to those harmed. 

Four years ago, Listecki publically urged victims to come forward to file cases and promised that the church, with the court, would provide restitution and healing.  Yet, the very day after the period of time for survivors to file cases was reached, LoCoco and his team immediately sought to dismiss victim cases.  For four long years, and thousands of billable hours later, they have been doing little else.  The result:  church lawyers, court and other costs are now soaring towards $20 million dollars while victims have received no relief whatsoever.  In fact, the archdiocese claims it has only $4 million dollars to help victims, four times less than it’s been paying out to lawyers and for other related costs.

There is something terribly wrong with this picture.  Maybe Adelman or someone can figure it out and fix it.  If not, the bankruptcy court has been little else than a profitable chess game for church lawyers.  And it will be victims who will once again have to pay the price for the crimes and sins of the church. 

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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