Lawyers representing victims of clergy abuse in the Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese announced Thursday that they are launching a month-long media campaign to encourage others who have been sexually abused in the archdiocese to come forward.
At a news conference at the Pfister Hotel, lawyer Jeff Anderson said that because the archdiocese had filed for bankruptcy protection, there will be a short time frame for survivors of abuse by priests to come forward and make their claims.
Therefore, he said, he and other lawyers representing survivors are mounting an unusual outreach campaign through television and radio ads, print ads, the Internet and social media to encourage those who may have been abused by clergy or others working for the archdiocese to come forward now.
“You can get help if you were abused, and if you come forward your name will remain private and confidential,” he said.
The bankruptcy court has not yet determined the cutoff date for victims to come forward and make claims.
“A website, AbusedinWisconsin.com, also is being launched, the lawyers said.
Standing with the lawyers were four people who said they had been sexually abused as children and who urged others to come forward.
Gary Smith, 60, and Arthur Budzinski, 62, both said through signing interpreters that they were abused as children by the late Father Lawrence Murphy at St. John’s School for the Deaf in St. Francis.
“Now is the time to speak up,” Smith said.
Murphy’s case has been widely reported.
Karen Konter said she was abused by a priest at St. Adalbert Catholic Church, 1923 W. Becher St., when she was in grade school in the 1960s. She said that the priest is now dead, and that his name had not been released. She especially urged female victims to come forward.
“Few women have chosen to stand and hold perpetrators accountable,” she said. “There is help for female survivors, and it’s important for other children that the abuse stops.”
Billy Kirchen, 44, said he was abused by the music director at St. Catherine’s at N. 51st and W. Center streets between the ages of 11 to 15. Although at 16 he brought the matter to authorities, he said, no charges have been filed. He said the man remains active as a choir director in a church out of state.Jerry Topczewski, the chief of staff to Archbishop Jerome Listecki, said the diocese had done outreach to victims of clergy abuse since 2002 through print ads, bulletins and other avenues. “We’ve always asked for people to come forward,” he said. “At the end of the day, until a person comes forward, we can’t work with them on healing and resolution.”