Archdiocese of Milwaukee to Settle with Victims of Sex Abuse

By Caleb Saunders
Badger Herald
October 14, 2010

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee will enter into mediation to settle 12 fraud lawsuits with victims of sexual abuse, the archbishop of Milwaukee said Tuesday.

Fifteen victims brought the lawsuits against the archdiocese claiming the organization knowingly withheld information about priests who had sexually abused minors in the past 20 years. The victims claim the church enabled the priests to abuse again by withholding the information.

Archbishop Jerome Listecki announced the decision to seek settlements in a newsletter to his parishioners, saying he hopes the settlement will bring healing and peace to victims and survivors or abuse.

"Let me say with all sincerity that I am approaching this mediation with an open mind, a humble heart and a willingness to jointly seek resolution," Listecki wrote in the letter.

Listecki also said he believes settling with the victims will be best for both sides of the case by avoiding additional pain, legal costs and the uncertainty of trial.

"What we have learned about the human damage and suffering of the victims/survivors makes it clear that our goal must be to find ways to bring peace and comfort to these individuals and their families," Listecki wrote.

Listecki plans to attend the settlement talks, which will take place in Chicago with an independent mediator present.

According to a recently released statement from the archdiocese, a major reason they decided to settle was its limited resources.

The archdiocese's resources are limited, and the organization would rather use those funds for victims and survivors of abuse than for addition legal fees, according to the statement.

According to the statement, the archdiocese has been doing everything possible to compensate the victims of abuse, including selling property, using interest and investment income, liquidating savings and reducing its operating costs by cutting funding to staff, service and ministry.

Several victims' rights groups have previously accused the Milwaukee archdiocese of withholding information in the past, including the Survivors' Network of those Abused by Priests.

SNAP said in a statement Listecki's agreement to settle does not include the lawsuit filed in Milwaukee against Pope Benedict XVI and two Vatican cardinals against a friar accused of assaulting 200 deaf children at a school operated by the Milwaukee archdiocese.

According to the archdiocese, Judge Stuart Nudelman was chosen as mediator because both sides are comfortable working with him and he has prior experience with the issue as well as credibility for both sides.

The archdiocese has paid $30 million so far in other sex abuse settlement as well as to enforce policy changes to protect children from being abused in the future, according to the archdiocese's website.

The archdiocese lists on its website 44 priests with likely sexual abuse accusations against them.

SNAP has also worked to identify specific members of the clergy in Milwaukee who they believe withheld information about priests who were abusing children, specifically those who have been promoted by the pope.

"As long as the Pope keeps elevating men who ignore or conceal known and suspected child sex crimes, such crimes will keep being ignored and concealed. As long as the Pope continues to ignore wrong-doing, wrong-doing will continue," David Clohessy, executive director of SNAP, said in a statement.

The mediation has been scheduled for Oct. 18.

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