Archdiocese in Wis. seeks bankruptcy protection
MILWAUKEE — The Archdiocese of Milwaukee said yesterday that it would file for bankruptcy protection because pending sexual-abuse lawsuits could leave it with debts it couldn’t afford. A lawyer who filed many of those lawsuits, however, said he thought the archdiocese was using bankruptcy as a delay tactic to avoid opening its records to public scrutiny.
Clergy sex abuse has already cost the Milwaukee Archdiocese $29 million to address almost 200 claims over the past 20 years, Archbishop Jerome Listecki said. Bankruptcy protection will allow the church to continue its work while ensuring other victims receive the compensation they deserve, he said.
Listecki said he felt “deeply ashamed’’ about what had happened within the church.
The Milwaukee Archdiocese is the eighth in the United States to seek bankruptcy protection since the clergy abuse scandal erupted in 2002 in Boston. The other seven are in Davenport, Iowa; Fairbanks, Alaska; Portland, Ore.; San Diego; Spokane, Wash.; Tucson; and Wilmington, Del.
Yesterday’s announcement drew scorn from attorney Jeff Anderson of St. Paul, who has filed 23 lawsuits against the archdiocese. He said he was scheduled to depose Milwaukee Bishop Richard Sklba tomorrow and he thought the bankruptcy filing was intended to delay that.
Anderson and some of his clients have been pushing for the archdiocese to make public the names of priests accused of sexual abuse and church officials who protected them. They want the archdiocese to release personnel files and other documents.
The church has refused, and mediation with some victims failed last month.