Mediators Say Agreements Reached in 37 of 93 Abuse Reports

By John Hartzell
Associated Press, carried in Duluth News Tribune [Milwaukee WI]
September 15, 2004

MILWAUKEE - Mediators said Wednesday they have resolved 37 claims of clergy sexual abuse in the Milwaukee Roman Catholic Archdiocese.

The archdiocese's independent clergy sexual abuse mediation system had received a total of 93 reports of abuse since it started in January. Mediators said 13 cases are in the mediation process and 14 others are under investigation.

Eva Soeka, the mediation system's administrator, said confidentiality provisions in the agreements prohibited church officials from saying how the archdiocese resolved the claims.

Peter Isely, Milwaukee spokesman for the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests, said some settlements ranged from $20,000 to $50,000.

Isely said Wisconsin clergy sexual abuse victims cannot take their cases to court because of a 1995 state Supreme Court ruling in which the panel said it would never decide whether the Catholic Church or any other religious denomination had improperly hired, supervised or trained professional workers.

Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan said the mediators' report showed the system worked.

"I am thankful that so many victims/survivors have benefited from the system and used it to achieve resolution," he said.

"While no action can undo the harm of sexual abuse, I believe that every time resolution is reached, whether with an individual or group, it is a healing moment."

But Isely said the mediation system was created "to get as many people out of the way as possible" before the law interpreted in the 1995 court decision changes.

He also noted the mediation system was not independent because the archdiocese had established it.

Participation in the mediation process is voluntary, Soeka said.

Mediators said two of the claimants whose cases were brought before the group declined to pursue the mediation process and six claims were unsubstantiated after investigation.

The panel said 10 of the claims involved alleged abuse by members of religious orders or other dioceses, three were adults when the alleged abuse occurred, three were family members or friends of the alleged victim, three of the alleged abusers were found to be lay people rather than clergy members and two claimants could not provide sufficient information for an investigation.


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