WI--Letter to Pope Francis from deaf survivors of St. John’s School on behalf of the 575 survivors in the Milwaukee Archdiocese Bankruptcy.

By Peter Isely
Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests
November 10, 2015

Letter to Pope Francis from deaf survivors of St. John’s School on behalf of the 575 survivors in the Milwaukee Archdiocese Bankruptcy.

Dear Pope Francis,

We are writing to you as deaf survivors of childhood sexual assault by Father Lawrence Murphy who operated for decades St. John’s School for the Deaf in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.  As far as we know, in the mid 1970’s we were the first victims of these crimes to publicly come forward anywhere in the world.  We did so very reluctantly and only after learning that the Milwaukee Archdiocese, with the likely knowledge and advice of Vatican officials, was continuing to cover up the crimes of Fr. Murphy and leave deaf children at risk.

Ours has been a long and difficult journey for justice since then, both for our deaf brothers and sisters but also for our many hearing brothers and sisters who are fellow survivors from the Milwaukee Archdiocese, especially the 575 brave souls who came forward five years ago to file cases in to Federal Bankruptcy Court.  We all did so at the explicit urging of Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki who promised us “healing and resolution” through this court process.

It is very clear to us that the bankruptcy court has been neither an instrument of healing or resolution, much less justice.   

This five year bankruptcy has been a wounding and revictimizing experience for survivors and for the Catholic community.  The most important issues about the church cover up of sex crimes in Milwaukee remain unanswered and unresolved, especially the disturbing pattern of financial fraud and mismanagement by church officials.  The most obvious example is the transfer of nearly $60 million dollars by former Archbishop Timothy Dolan into a so-called “Cemetery Trust” before the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy.  Evidence has repeatedly surfaced in court showing a pattern of financial corruption, most glaringly a letter from Dolan to the Vatican seeking permission to create the Cemetery Trust in order to keep US courts from compensation victims such as ourselves. 

Twice as much money in the bankruptcy settlement will be going to church and other lawyers (the most lavish legal profits of any church bankruptcy in US history), than to all 575 victims combined.  Clearly, this shows a serious mismanagement and diversion of church resources. It is hard for us not to believe that you intended those resources to go to help heal victims not enrich lawyers.  How does this possibly promote the church’s mission of spreading the Gospel and healing the wounded?

There are 575 victim reports detailing over 8,000 instances of criminal sexual assault by over 150 Milwaukee clergy and others.  These reports have not been fully reviewed by US law enforcement or even by Vatican officials and have remained secret.  We are urging your office to directly obtain from Archbishop Listecki these reports, turn them over to the proper civil authorities, and take quick and decisive steps to identify and remove from ministry these abusive clergy.

We are willing to go to Rome with Archbishop Listecki to sit down with you. This is something that could quite easily be arranged by giving your consent.  This meeting will give Archbishop Listecki the perfect opportunity to explain to you and us how this lengthy, adversarial bankruptcy has resulted in truth, justice and the advancement of the common good.


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