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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10 Responses to “Milwaukee archdiocese miffed at art depicting pope with condoms settles child molestation case for $21 million”

  1. Indigo says:

    Mostly, tax. They hate that.

  2. Indigo says:

    That’s pretty much what’s happened and I doubt it can be undone until the public actually wake up. Not much sign of that happening right now.

  3. 2karmanot says:

    When debt became asset in this country, justice became a commodity. While there is much ado about ‘due process ‘ our current legal system has very little concern for justice.

  4. 2karmanot says:

    a “high-end condom” is one that covers both cheeks.

  5. Bill_Perdue says:

    The solution is criminal prosecutions of the roman cult with jail time for the archbishop and his court and a robust investigation of all priests and nuns to determine their guilt in these matters.

    Prosecute, Tax, Tax, Tax and Tax some more and then then persecute.

    The second part of the solution is a mass exodus from that cult, a process well underway in Ireland.

  6. 2patricius2 says:

    Check out the comments on this linked article. The lawyers get $30 million, the victims get half that. And for those victimized who want therapy paid for under this plan, they have to see therapists – not of their own choice – but therapists who are provided by the archdiocese.

  7. The_Fixer says:

    I am wondering just what a “high-end condom” is. Maybe I’ve lived a sheltered life or something….

  8. Indigo says:

    Thing is, the accountants and lawyers juggling the diocese finances are the ones putting actual profits in their pockets. The archbishop, the judge, the employees and the abused all take a back seat to the profiteers. That’s unacceptable at the moral level, at least in my opinion, but that’s also the consequence of following due process in our juridical system.

    There is another social issue here beyond the outrage of the victims or the pretension of the diocese; the issue is the corporate piracy allowed by the system itself. This issue is not new, it’s a matter of literary record and an established practice in Anglo-Saxon tradition. After a lifetime of litigation in poverty, the heirs in Charles Dickens’ novel ‘Bleak House’ win their case in court and are awarded the balance of the estate which amounts to nothing. Zilch! And that’s legal!

    So the archdiocese was not punished enough in the eyes of some, the abused did not receive as much in just compensation as they might or should have, but ultimately, the system itself put the balance in its pocket. That’s an outrage worthy of attention but we gloss over it because . . . yeah, why do we gloss over that part?

  9. Houndentenor says:

    I think we should have a long conversation in this company about how victims have to seek justice through civil rather than criminal courts. How is it that the courts ruled a settlement that big and no one went to jail for rape or for child abuse? Yes, yes, laws, statutes of limitations blah blah blah. Why haven’t we fixed this already?

  10. nicho says:

    The problem is that this money will, or has, come out of the pockets of ordinary people — some of them poor people.

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