The Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee, which is facing more than a dozen lawsuits over its handling of clergy sex abuse cases, is expected to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection this afternoon, the archdiocese said Tuesday.
Archbishop Jerome Listecki said the move was necessary to fairly compensate victims and continue the “essential ministries” of the church, and urged the faithful not to blame the victims.
“For those of you who may feel anger and resentment that we have come to this moment, STOP,” Listecki said in a letter to church members on Tuesday. “We are here because of one reason: Priests sexually abused minors.”
Jeff Anderson, the Minnesota lawyer who represents victims in the Milwaukee cases, called the action sad and alarming, characterizing it as a ploy to delay the lawsuits and the disclosure of damning information in depositions of retired Archbishop Rembert Weakland and Richard Sklba. Sklba’s deposition was initially scheduled for January and recently rescheduled for February.
“The bankruptcy essentially stops the cases from moving forward,” Anderson said. “In other cities it’s often been done on the eve of trial. In this case it’s on the eve of the deposition.”
In a letter Tuesday to the faithful, Listecki said the action was brought on “because priest-perpetrators sexually abused minors, going against everything the Church and the priesthood represents.”
As a result, he said, “there are financial claims pending against the archdiocese that exceed our means.”
Listecki said the bankruptcy has two goals: to compensate victims and survivors as fairly as possible; and “to carry on the essential ministries of the archdiocese so we can continue to meet the needs of our parishes, parishioners and others who rely upon the Church for assistance.”
Listecki was scheduled to speak at a news conference at 2 p.m. at the Cousins Center, 3501 S. Lake Drive.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee released this statement Tuesday:
“Today, after consultation with archdiocesan advisors, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki directed attorneys for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to file a petition for a Chapter 11 reorganization of its financial affairs under the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.
“This action is occurring because priest-perpetrators sexually abused minors.
“Financial claims pending against the archdiocese’s means, recent failure to reach a mediated resolution with victims/survivors involved in lawsuits against the archdiocese, along with the November court decision that insurance companies are not bound to contribute to any financial settlement, made it clear that reorganization is the best way to fairly and equitably fulfill obligations.
“In taking this action, there are two goals. First, the archdiocese wants to fairly compensate victims/survivors with unresolved claims – both those with claims pending and those who will come forward because of this proceeding. Second, the archdiocese wants to carry on the essential ministries of the archdiocese in order to continue to meet the needs of parishes, parishioners and others who rely upon the Church for assistance.
“A Chapter 11 reorganization is the best way to achieve these goals. It enables the archdiocese to use available funds to compensate all victims/survivors with unresolved claims in a single process overseen by a court, ensuring that all are treated equitably. In addition, by serving as a final call for legal claims against the archdiocese, the proceeding will allow the Church to move forward on stable financial ground, focused on its Gospel mission.
“For more information on this topic, please view the resources available on this page.
“If you have questions or concerns, please contact us at firstname.lastname@example.org.”