A group of victims with claims in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy on Tuesday criticized its latest reorganization plan as inadequate, saying it does not do enough to ensure the protection of children or hold the archdiocese accountable for its past actions.
In a news conference on the steps of the federal courthouse in Milwaukee, victims called for an independent review of the estimated 570 claims filed by men and women detailing their sexual abuse as children by priests and others connected with the 10-county archdiocese.
And they said U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley should release all claims now under seal — redacted to shield victims — so the public can assess for itself the scope of the abuse scandal in southeastern Wisconsin and whether the church has done enough to protect children.
"All of these reports need to be investigated," said Peter Isely of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. He cited assertions by victims' attorneys in court that the sealed records identify at least 100 offenders whose names have never been made public.
"Where are those other 100-plus offenders? ... That's the most important piece of information in this bankruptcy," Isely said.
The reorganization plan filed by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee on Monday includes several so-called nonmonetary provisions aimed at protecting children. However, it does not appear to include an independent review of the allegations or the release of additional documents.
The plan maintains that children in the archdiocese are safe, saying 99% of the diocesan priests named in the claims are dead, retired or have left or been removed from ministry. That statistic does not include teachers, nuns, religious order priests and others who have been accused in the claims.
Jerry Topczewski, chief of staff for Archbishop Jerome Listecki, issued a statement Tuesday saying the church has "worked closely with abuse survivor attorneys to provide full transparency and confidence in the steps the archdiocese has taken to ensure the safety of children in this community." That included posting the names of abusive priests on the archdiocese website and the release in July 2013 of about 6,000 pages of church documents detailing the church's handling of sex abuse cases.
The reorganization plan lays out how the archdiocese would compensate victims and continue to operate post-bankruptcy. It must still be voted on by creditors and approved by Kelley, who has scheduled a confirmation hearing to begin Nov. 9.
James Stang, who represents the creditors committee, said he was reviewing the plan and would propose changes. Stang and Charles Linneman, who chairs the creditors committee, have said they believe the deal was the best they could negotiate.
Among the provisions in the plan:
■The archdiocese would set aside at least $21.25 million in a trust to compensate victims. The total number of claims to be paid and at what level is in flux. As of Monday, 336 would receive a payment based on a claims review process. Some 119 would get $2,000 or could try to persuade Kelley that their claims should be included in the larger pool. About 124 would receive no financial payment.
■An additional $8 million would go to pay legal and professional fees, bringing the total to about $19.4 million as of July 31.
■ The plan would be financed with $16 million from the archdiocesan cemetery trust, $3 million of which is a loan; $11 million from its insurance carriers; and $2.4 million from two funds it maintains for continuing education of priests, and orphans and other welfare needs. Parishes would contribute $500,000 for a therapy fund. And the Faith in Our Future Trust would contribute $200,000 toward a program of the archdiocese's choosing. Parishes, schools and certain other Catholic entities would get a waiver of liability.
■The archdiocese would continue to try to sell five undeveloped properties currently worth about $3 million, though that could take years, it said.
■Confirmation of the plan would settle pending lawsuits over the archdiocese's cemetery trust and insurance policies. And it would prohibit future lawsuits against the Faith in Our Future trust or the Cousins Center, the archdiocese's headquarters building.
Among the survivors on the courthouse steps Tuesday were Angie Roscioli, 91, who is thought to be the oldest victim with a claim in the bankruptcy, and her son, the Rev. Domenic Roscioli.
A diocesan priest, Roscioli said he was proud of his mother, who went public with her story in the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel on Sunday. And he took issue with the archdiocese's assertion that it's time to "turn the page" on this painful chapter in its history.
"The page never turns for victims," the priest said.