US archdiocese settles abuse cases for $21 million
MADISON, Wisconsin (AP) — The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee said Tuesday that it will pay $21 million to more than 300 victims of clergy abuse in a settlement that would end a four-year bankruptcy proceeding.
The proposed deal, which will be part of a reorganization plan submitted to a bankruptcy court later this month, was to be reviewed by a judge overseeing the case at a Nov. 9 hearing. Archbishop Jerome Listecki called the settlement a “new Pentecost.”
“Today, we turn the page on a terrible part of our history and we embark on a new road lined with hope, forgiveness and love,” Listecki said in a statement.
The settlement was reached after three days of negotiations in July in Milwaukee between the archdiocese, the creditors’ committee and attorneys for abuse survivors, the archdiocese said.
Attorney Jeff Anderson, who represents people who have filed 350 of the approximately 570 bankruptcy claims, criticized the archdiocese for trying to have hundreds of claims thrown out of court before a November bankruptcy hearing. As a result, the creditors’ committee was forced to prevent the case from being drawn out any longer, Anderson said.
“The treatment of the survivors by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has been harsh and hurtful,” Anderson said in a statement. “This process has been heartbreaking for many who have been treated so unfairly by hardball legal tactics. The survivors continued to stand up for what was right, what they believed in, and to make sure the truth was brought to light. Because of them, children are better protected.”
The deal was also criticized by David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. He accused church officials of “cramming a self-serving plan down the throats of struggling abuse victims.”
Under terms of the deal, 330 abuse survivors will share $21 million and a $500,000 therapy fund will be established for them to receive counseling for as long as they need it. All of the archdiocese’s parishes, schools and institutions would be protected from future lawsuits related to abuse claims.
Some people will get no money under the deal. No payment will be given to 157 claims that had previously been disallowed or dismissed, were not for sexual abuse, did not name the abuser or where a financial settlement had already been paid, the archdiocese said.
Money to pay the claims will come from various sources, including insurance settlements worth $11 million and financial arrangements with the cemetery trust fund.
The archdiocese filed for bankruptcy protection in 2011 to address its sex abuse lawsuit liabilities.
Associated Press writer Jeff Baenen in Minneapolis contributed to this report.