MILWAUKEE (Reuters) A federal judge on Monday (Nov. 9) approved a bankruptcy plan for the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee that includes a $21 million settlement for 330 victims of sexual abuse by clergy.
U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Susan Kelley approved the church’s Chapter 11 reorganization plan more than four years after the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy protection.
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.
Archbishop Jerome Listecki apologized to the victims in court before the judge approved the plan.
“There’s no resolution that would ever give them back what they have lost and what their families have suffered,” he said.
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.
Several sexual abuse victims attended the hearing and murmured in displeasure when Listecki and attorneys for the archdiocese spoke.
“I believe in God. I believe in a higher being, but this church should not come out of bankruptcy in my opinion. This is not the church that Jesus started,” said one of the several victims who spoke during the hearing.
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 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.
(Reporting by Brendan O’Brien)