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Milwaukee archdiocese settles abuse cases for $21 million

Published:Wednesday | August 5, 2015 | 8:00 AM
Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki

MADISON, Wisconsin (AP):

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee said yesterday that it will pay US$21 million to more than 300 victims of clergy abuse in a settlement that would end a four-year bankruptcy proceeding.

The proposed deal, which will be part of a reorganisation plan submitted to a bankruptcy court later this month, was to be reviewed by a judge overseeing the case at a November 9 hearing. Archbishop Jerome Listeki called the settlement a "new Pentecost", but an attorney for the victims, along with advocates for those abused by clergy, decried the settlement as a paltry amount.

Milwaukee is one of 12 Roman Catholic dioceses nationwide to file for bankruptcy in the past decade over a flood of abuse claims. The settlement announced Tuesday is among the smallest per-victim payments yet in these cases. The actual amount each victim receives will be determined by an appointee of the bankruptcy court.

The settlement was reached after three days of negotiations in July between the archdiocese, the creditors' committee and attorneys for abuse survivors, the archdiocese said.

"Today, we turn the page on a terrible part of our history and we embark on a new road lined with hope, forgiveness and love," Listecki said in a statement.

But attorney Jeff Anderson, who represents people who have filed 350 of the 579 bankruptcy claims, called the archdiocese's treatment of abuse victims "harsh and hurtful".

"This process has been heartbreaking for many who have been treated so unfairly by hardball legal tactics," he said. "The survivors continued to stand up for what was right, what they believed in, and to make sure the truth was brought to light. Because of them, children are better protected."

The deal was also criticised by David Clohessy, director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an advocacy group for survivors of clergy abuse. He called it "the largest mass betrayal of child sex abuse victims we've ever seen by one diocese. And it's the most cunning exploitation of the advantages of bankruptcy rules by Catholic officials we've ever seen."