Milwaukee archdiocese to give $21 million to survivors of clergy sex abuse

This article appears in the Milwaukee bankruptcy feature series. View the full series.

Milwaukee — The Milwaukee archdiocese has agreed to give survivors of clergy sex abuse $21 million, a move that is expected to end the four and a half years that church has been in bankruptcy court.

In a statement issued by the archdiocese, 330 of the 575 survivors will share in the compensation. They will receive varying amounts to be determined by an outside administrator. There will also be a $500,000 therapy fund established and it will be paid for by all of the parishes in the archdiocese. The agreement otherwise protects parishes and schools from future lawsuits. 

Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki acknowledged that the projected total legal and professional fees will be about $20 million when the bankruptcy is complete. That does not include the amount Jeff Anderson & Associates, the law firm that represents many of the survivors, will receive.

The funds will come from a variety of sources, including $11 million from insurance and $16 million from the controversial Cemetery Trust Fund.

The headquarters of the archdiocese will remain at the Cousins Center in suburban Milwaukee. The archdiocese will also voluntarily withdraw a legal action filed with the U.S. Supreme Court in an attempt to reverse an appellate decision that the more than $50 million placed in the Cemetery Trust Fund was part of the estate. 

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Listecki said this of the agreement:

"Reaching a settlement is the best way to acknowledge the hurts of the past and try to reconcile for the future. I am pleased that a settlement was reached and that both abuse survivors and the archdiocese can turn the page from this terrible chapter of our history. It is important that we never forget the pain and suffering of abuse survivors. And we will continue to hold ourselves accountable to all the elements of the Dallas Charter and the demands of our archdiocesan Safe Environment protocols." 

The archdiocese missed an Aug. 3 deadline for filing a revised plan of reorganization. The original plan had called for about $4 million for the survivors.

According to a press release from the Anderson law firm, the committee that represents all the creditors "was forced to make a decision that would prevent the case from being drawn out longer and incurring additional bankruptcy attorneys' fees."

"We applaud the courage of the survivors who came forward and the creditors' committee who fought every step of the way," said Anderson. "The treatment of the survivors by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee has been harsh and hurtful."

[Marie Rohde is a Milwaukee-based freelance writer.]

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