Judge OKs Milwaukee archdiocese bankruptcy; victims get $21M

SHARE Judge OKs Milwaukee archdiocese bankruptcy; victims get $21M

MILWAUKEE — A reorganization plan for Milwaukee’s Roman Catholic archdiocese that will distribute $21 million to hundreds of clergy sex abuse victims won approval Monday from a federal bankruptcy judge, bringing a measure of closure to a long-running and emotional case.

The plan confirmed by U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Susan Kelley splits most of the money among 355 people. Another category of 104 victims will get about $2,000 each. There also are provisions for victims to receive counseling.

Shortly before the deal was approved, Archbishop Jerome Listecki addressed the court and repeated his apology to victims as well as his hope that “we have turned the corner in the history of the archdiocese.” At several points as he spoke, however, a packed gallery of victims and advocates coughed, groaned and even quietly booed.

A dozen Catholic dioceses nationwide have filed for bankruptcy in the past decade over abuse claims in a widespread scandal that rocked the church. Milwaukee’s settlement, announced in early August, includes some of the smallest per-victim payments — a heavily criticized aspect of the deal.

Several victims have said they wished settlement amounts had been larger and that they wanted to see a deeper investigation of abuse claims to make sure no one remains at risk.

In court Monday, Charles Linneman, chairman of the creditors’ committee, said he didn’t like the classification plan for abuse victims, and that “in a lot of ways, I think I failed you.”

Still, he didn’t object to the deal negotiated among the archdiocese, the creditors’ committee and attorneys for abuse survivors. After the hearing he declined to elaborate on what he wished had gone differently.

Church lawyers have said all claims have been properly investigated and reforms have been put in place to prevent future abuses.

The agreement follows a yearslong process that revealed the scope of the Milwaukee archdiocese’s involvement in the clergy sex abuse scandal. The church made sweeping reforms meant to stop molesters and help victims, including a pledge to investigate claims and oust abusers. Bishops also enacted safeguards for children, requiring background checks and special training.

Kelley allowed victims to speak at the hearing in order to have any remaining complaints noted for the record, and several stood to lash out, though none legally objected. She encouraged victims with further concerns to reach out to the archbishop, saying they had the right to do so under the deal.

The judge and lawyers for both sides were scheduled to return to court later Monday to formalize language in the deal, which ends a case that began when the archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 protection in 2011 to address its sex abuse lawsuit liabilities.

Kelley choked up when she confirmed the plan. “I did the best I could,” she said, composing herself. Hopefully, she said, “a page can be turned, some resolution can be had.”

GREG MOORE, Associated Press

The Latest
Three people were injured in the crash Thursday afternoon, police said.
Few of his initiatives wind up in state law books, but they have all helped Bailey quickly make a name for himself as a firebrand devoted to conservative ideology. That includes pride in how few of his bills pass. “We do not need more government — more government like J.B. Pritzker wants. It’s ruining our society.”
She loves him dearly and has been raising their child alone, and fears telling him the truth would end the relationship.
The pandemic created political superheroes and villains. In Illinois, Pritzker was both — lauded for stepping up to former President Donald Trump and fighting for COVID-19 resources, and lambasted by those who viewed him as an authoritarian who shut down much of the state.