Milwaukee archdiocese reaches $21 million settlement with abuse victims

Reuters News
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Posted: Aug 04, 2015 4:52 PM

By Brendan O'Brien

MILWAUKEE (Reuters) - The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee has reached a $21 million settlement with 330 victims of sexual abuse by clergy, church officials said on Tuesday.

The settlement will be filed as part of the church's plan to restructure in U.S. Bankruptcy Court on Aug. 24, more than four years after the archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection, Archbishop Jerome Listecki said in a statement.

"Today, we turn the page on a terrible part of our history and we embark on a new road lined with hope, forgiveness and love," Listecki said.

The U.S. Catholic Church has been hit with a series of sexual abuse accusations aimed mainly at clergy who targeted youths over the past two decades. The scandals have cost the U.S. church about $3 billion in settlements and driven prominent dioceses like Milwaukee's into bankruptcy.

The archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2011, citing the financial drain of settling sexual-abuse claims and acknowledging missteps by the church in dealing with pedophile priests.

The archdiocese in July 2014 released hundreds of documents showing that Milwaukee church officials shielded pedophile priests and protected church funds from lawsuits during a decades-long sex abuse scandal.

The 330 victims, who will be paid various sums of money through the settlement, are some of the 579 people who filed sexual abuse claims against the archdiocese. The remaining 249 cases could not be substantiated or were dismissed, the archdiocese said.

"The painfully and needlessly long, expensive and hurtful Milwaukee Catholic archdiocesan bankruptcy scandal has apparently been resolved by church officials basically cramming a self-serving plan down the throats of struggling abuse victims," said David Clohessy, the director of victims' group Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, in a statement.

The archdiocese will also set up a $500,000 fund to pay for therapy and counseling for abuse survivors as long as they need the assistance, the church said.

(Editing by Eric Walsh)