Milwaukee archdiocese miffed at art depicting pope with condoms settles child molestation case for $21 million

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee announced yesterday that it will pay $21 million to victims of childhood sexual abuse, a move that will help the organization move out of bankruptcy.

From the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel:

Under the terms of the agreement, 330 of the estimated 575 men and women who filed sex abuse claims in the bankruptcy would receive financial settlements of varying amounts, to be determined by an administrator appointed by the bankruptcy court.

The $21 million far exceeds the $4 million the archdiocese offered victims as part of its initial reorganization plan filed in February 2014. And it more than doubles the number of survivors who will be compensated. A revised reorganization plan is scheduled to be filed Aug. 24.

The settlement needs the approval of U.S. Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley. It would be among the smallest offered victims in a Catholic Church bankruptcy filed to address sex abuse claims.

As part of settlement, a vast sum of money set aside by the Catholic Church by then-Cardinal Timothy Dolan for a cemetery trust would be exempted from future lawsuits. The trust is worth roughly $105 million, and court records show that Dolan had created the trust for the express purpose of shielding money from lawsuits. The Church maintains that the fund is necessary for preserving Catholic gravesites.

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee, via Wikimedia Commons

The Cathedral of St. John the Evangelist in Milwaukee, via Wikimedia Commons

As the Journal-Sentinel noted, the settlement reached with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee was the most contentious legal battle of all of the sexual abuse settlements the Church has reached in the United States. The Archdiocese initially sought to throw out all of the abuse claims, and then offered an insultingly low $4 million to the 575 people filing suit. When the Archdiocese did eventually file for bankruptcy, it listed its own employee and retiree benefit plans as creditors ahead of the abuse victims, a significant statement regarding how little they felt victims were owed.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is, of course, the same archdiocese, led by the same archbishop — Jerome Listecki — that threw a hissy fit not too long ago over an art installation depicting former Pope Benedict XVI using nothing but 17,000 high-end condoms. That, of course, was a grave insult. Entering into a protracted legal battle over how much is owed to which victims of sexual abuse, however, is apparently all in Jesus’s name.

Good to know.

Jon Green graduated from Kenyon College with a B.A. in Political Science and high honors in Political Cognition. He worked as a field organizer for Congressman Tom Perriello in 2010 and a Regional Field Director for President Obama's re-election campaign in 2012. Jon writes on a number of topics, but pays especially close attention to elections, religion and political cognition. Follow him on Twitter at @_Jon_Green, and on Google+. .

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