MILWAUKEE – The Archdiocese of Milwaukee said Tuesday it would file for bankruptcy protection because pending sexual-abuse lawsuits could leave it with debts it couldn’t afford.
Clergy sex abuse has already cost the Milwaukee archdiocese $29 million to address almost 200 claims over the past 20 years, Archbishop Jerome Listecki said. Bankruptcy protection will allow the church to continue its work while ensuring other victims receive the compensation they deserve, he said.
Listecki said he felt “deeply ashamed” about what had happened within the church.
“In my installation homily on Jan. 4, 2010, I spoke of the devastation of sin and its effect on us personally and as a community,” Listecki said. “We see the result of that sin today. This action is occurring because priest-perpetrators sexually abused minors, going against everything the church and the priesthood represents.”
The Milwaukee Archdiocese is the eighth in the U.S. to seek bankruptcy protection since the clergy abuse scandal erupted in 2002 in Boston. The other seven are in Spokane; Davenport, Iowa; Fairbanks, Alaska; Portland, Ore.; San Diego; Tucson, Ariz.; and Wilmington, Del.
Tuesday’s announcement drew scorn from attorney Jeff Anderson, of St. Paul, Minn., who has filed 23 lawsuits against the archdiocese. He said he was scheduled to depose Milwaukee Bishop Richard Sklba on Thursday and he thought the bankruptcy filing was intended to delay that.