Church, Abuse Victims Talks Stall

Associated Press, carried in Post-Crescent [Milwaukee WI]
Downloaded March 9, 2004

MILWAUKEE - Talks broke down Monday between the Milwaukee Roman Catholic Archdiocese and a group of clergy sexual abuse victims over releasing the names of suspected abusive priests and compensation for victims.

Representatives from Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests in Milwaukee said Monday they were disappointed by the church's rejection of the group's requests for documents. They said the church also made a final offer of $2.8 million for about 70 victims.

"For us, this has always been about protecting children, exposing the truth and helping victims heal," SNAP spokesman Peter Isely said. "For this archdiocese, it's apparently about money, and nothing else."

Archdiocese spokesman Jerry Topczewski said SNAP representatives walked out of the talks Monday.

He said the archdiocese did not make any specific offer of monetary compensation, and SNAP's requests for names and documents weren't even on Monday's agenda for discussion.

"To say that today was a decision point was just false," he said.

SNAP has been in talks with the archdiocese since December.

Both the archdiocese and SNAP say they are willing to go back to mediation if the other side is willing to talk. Topczewski says abuse victims can still seek resolutions with the church individually through an independent mediation process.

In a written statement, Archbishop Timothy Dolan said he was disappointed by Monday's meeting, but the two sides have agreed on eight points proposed by the group.

For example, the archdiocese agrees not to allow church leaders who are proven to have sexually abused children to serve in active duty. The archdiocese also will formalize its practice of not retaliating against anyone who reports such abuse.

At Monday's press conference, Isely refused to say whether his group would accept the monetary offer from the archdiocese. He insisted abuse victims cannot find closure or move on to talk about money without the church's release of names of sex offenders.

"The most important thing to us is public safety," Isely said.

Last week, the state Senate approved a bill to require clergy to report fellow members who sexually abuse children. The legislation would also extend the statute of limitations for victims filing lawsuits against the clergy and churches.

The legislation now goes to the Assembly for consideration.


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