About 550 people are asking for restitution for alleged sexual abuse by clergy in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee — more than in any of the other U.S. dioceses that have filed for bankruptcy protection, according to a lawyer involved in the Milwaukee case. The Milwaukee Archdiocese filed for bankruptcy protection last year, saying pending sex-abuse lawsuits could leave it with debts it couldn't afford.
The archdiocese has paid more than $30 million in settlements and other court costs related to allegations of clergy abuse and more than a dozen suits against it have been halted because of the bankruptcy proceedings. One priest alone is accused of abusing some 200 boys at a suburban school for deaf students from 1950 to 1974.James Stang, a bankruptcy lawyer who represents creditors in the Wisconsin case, estimated that about 550 claims had been filed by the Wednesday afternoon deadline set by the bankruptcy court.
Those who filed claims will end up splitting a settlement amount that will be determined by the creditors' committee, archdiocese and its insurance company. The archdiocese had only $4.6 million in assets to be applied to claims in 2010.
The other seven Catholic dioceses in the U.S. that have filed for bankruptcy since the clergy abuse scandal erupted in 2002 in Boston are in Davenport, Iowa; Fairbanks, Alaska; Portland, Ore.; San Diego; Spokane, Wash.; Tucson, Ariz.; and Wilmington, Del. Two other religious orders have also filed for bankruptcy.
Stang predicted the payouts wouldn't be on the generous side in Wisconsin. The creditors committee, archdiocese and its insurance company will negotiate a dollar amount. After that, those who filed claims will negotiate between themselves on how to divide the money.
"Insurance-coverage issues in Milwaukee cases haven't been very good for survivors," he said. "The rulings by courts there have not been survivor-friendly."
Frankly, the Archdiocese's claim that it only had $4.6 million in assets seems very suspect. Especially since the Church as a whole has found millions of dollars to direct towards anti-gay constitutional amendments and other anti-gay initiatives. Indeed, what the Church hierarchy and the Knights of Columbus - the latter, laughably, a supposed protector of families and children - have spent in California, New York, Maine, New Hampshire, Connecticut, Maryland and Washington State - to keep gay Americans third class citizens far exceeds the amount of assets the Milwaukee Archdiocese claimed it had available to compensate victims. Candidly, these victims were raped first by predator priests and now they are being raped again by the Church hierarchy and its dioceses. Here are highlights from a piece in The Uptake that looks at Catholic Church funding for the anti-gay constitutional amendment on the ballot in Minnesota:
The Catholic Archdiocese of Minneapolis & St. Paul and the Catholic Dioceses of New Ulm contributed $700,000 last year to support an anti-gay Minnesota constitutional amendment.
The church claims that money has not come from contributions it has received through its parishes, but from investment income.
The constitutional amendment defining marriage between one man and one woman, effectively banning gay or lesbian marriage, is scheduled to be on this November’s general election ballot. Half of that money, $350,000 has been donated to Minnesota For Marriage which is spearheading the push to get the constitutional amendment approved.
Increasingly, I cannot understand how rank and file Catholics don't feel morally dirty remaining a part of such a morally bankrupt and despicable institution. Like it or not, through their continued financial support of the Church and their local parishes, they are accessories to a worldwide conspiracy trafficking in the sexual abuse of children and youths.