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Archdiocese of Milwaukee Seeks to Bar Survivors’ Recovery

By: Mike Finnegan
11/28/2011

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee will soon request Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley to rule on whether certain survivors can participate. The Archdiocese is likely to argue that certain claims should be excluded from bankruptcy court for several reasons: 1) because they are time-barred by the statute of limitations; 2) some survivors have already received settlements for their claims; and 3) some of the claims involve priests who are not diocesan priests but rather belong to religious orders.

Archbishop Jerome Listecki’s decision to object to claims is contrary to his stated intention of filing for bankruptcy to help survivors and make sure survivors receive compensation.

In an attempt possibly designed to soften his actions of objecting to abuse survivor claims, Archbishop Listecki also made the decision to file motions in bankruptcy court that seek to establish a fund for abuse victims’ therapy and counseling. The Archdiocese will ask the court to allow it to create a $300,000 fund that will pay for the therapy of those victims of sexual abuse whose claims are barred by the statute of limitations.

While the request on its own could be genuine, when it is coupled with objections to claims, it doesn’t seem to have the best interests of survivors at heart.




Priest Profile: Siegfried Widera

By: Mike Finnegan
11/22/2011

Siegfried Widera Siegfried Widera is one of the most prolific child abusers in the history of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. In 1973 he was convicted of sexual perversion with a teenager, but the Archdiocese quietly transferred Widera to parishes throughout Wisconsin and California until 2002. Widera committed suicide in 2003 in the midst of a police investigation.

The Archdiocese faced civil lawsuits starting in 2005, when John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 sued claiming that Widera sexually abused them from 1973 to 1976. John Doe 1 and John Doe 2 came into contact with Widera when, after his criminal conviction, the Archdiocese transferred him St. Andrew's Parish in Delavan, Wisconsin.

The extent of the cover-up that the Archdiocese engaged in to keep Widera’s crimes secret is extensive and well-documented. In lawsuits against Widera in Wisconsin, the Milwaukee Archdiocese fought to keep Widera documents secret. Documents from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee that were disclosed in a California case against Widera show that after confronting him about an assault at St. Andrew's, church officials said they would "try to keep the lid on the thing so no police record would be made." Church officials also noted that they knew the mother of the boy "feared reprisals from the Church if she would go to the police."

Find a more details on Widera on BishopAccountability.org.




Priest Profile: Laurin Wenig

By: Mike Finnegan
11/07/2011

Laurin-Wenig Father Laurin Wenig was an active priest in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee until he was removed from ministry in February 2011. His removal stemmed from a report alleging that Wenig sexually abused a minor in the mid-1970s, when the victim was 12 or 13 years old. At the time of the alleged abuse Wenig was a pastor at St. Nicholas in Milwaukee. St. Nicholas parish had a school that taught close to 450 students each year.

Until last February, Fr. Wenig was a pastor at St. Mary’s Visitation Catholic Church in Elm Grove, Wisconsin. St. Mary’s Visitation also had an attached school with over 300 students. Fr. Wenig had been the pastor at St. Mary’s since 2009. Prior to this assignment, Wenig worked in a number of parishes in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee including Holy Family in Whitefish Bay, St. Mary’s in Woodland, and at De Sales Prep Seminary High School in Milwaukee.

Fr. Wenig is no longer in active ministry in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The Archdiocese is currently investigating the allegations against Wenig.




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Creditors’ Committee Answers Cemetery Trusts’ Complaint

By: Mike Finnegan
9/13/2011

The Creditors’ Committee in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy case responded today to a complaint filed by the Cemetery Trust. The Trust’s complaint alleged that its assets are not property of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and it should not be considered a part of the bankruptcy estate. In response to these allegations, the Committee answered and counterclaimed by questioning the validity of the Trust and its relationship to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

In its response, the Creditors’ Committee declares that the Trust is invalid first because the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is the sole entity with interest in the Trust’s assets and Archbishop Listecki is the sole trustee. While assets are held in the Trust, they are used for the benefit and purpose of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The two entities are therefore not legally separable, the Committee argues.

The Committee also contends that the Trust itself is invalid because the funds at issue were not intended to be kept in trust. If the court finds the Trust to be valid, however, the Committee stresses that not all funds in the Trust are actually trust funds since they were previously comingled with other Archdiocese of Milwaukee accounts.

Ultimately, the Committee claims that the Trust was fraudulently created in 2007 to prevent abuse survivors from recovering assets from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Funds were then fraudulently transferred, says the Committee, between the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the Trust over a period of years following its formation.




Weakland, Sklba Depositions Scheduled

By: Mike Finnegan
9/12/2011

Bishop Richard Sklba Dates are now set for the depositions of Archbishop Rembert Weakland and Bishop Richard Sklba. On behalf of the creditors’ committee and abuse survivors we will depose Archbishop Weakland on October 24th and 25th, and Bishop Sklba on November 2nd and 3rd.

The depositions will ask Archbishop Weakland and Bishop Sklba to answer questions about what they knew of offender priests in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and how they handled abuse allegations. Both of these men were high ranking officials in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for decades and handled numerous allegations of priest abuse. They were both also involved in interactions with the Vatican on priest abuse cases, including the case of Lawrence Murphy, who molested numerous children at St. John’s School for the Deaf.




Priest Profile: Daniel Budzynski

By: Mike Finnegan
8/18/2011

Father Daniel Budzynski was ordained in 1956 and worked in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee his entire career until his retirement in 1994. Budzynski’s name appeared on Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s list of 43 total restricted priests that was released in 2004, where he was listed as laicized. Prior to his retirement he was assigned at Villa Clement Health Center, a nursing facility in West Allis, Wisconsin. Throughout his career he worked at many different parishes in the Milwaukee area, a number of which had schools attached.

Last week, U.S. Bankruptcy Court judge Susan V. Kelley authorized Budzynski’s deposition to be taken in October along with Archbishop Weakland and Bishop Sklba. Budzynski’s deposition was sought due to his advanced age and his knowledge of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.




Bankruptcy Judge Rules on Depositions

By: Mike Finnegan
8/16/11

Bishop Weakland Expanding on last Friday’s post about the bankruptcy court hearing and the resulting depositions of Bishop Weakland, Bishop Sklba, and defrocked priest Daniel Budzynski, I would like to thank abuse survivors for pushing for these depositions. We argued at Friday’s hearing that because of their advanced ages, it is necessary to take the depositions of Weakland, Sklba, and Budzynski as soon as possible. Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley agreed that these depositions should be taken soon and scheduled them for October, specifically mentioning the surprise death of colleague Judge Terence Evans as support for her decision.

For now the depositions will be sealed, meaning the public will not be able to view or read them, but the depositions will be available for each person in the case, including each of you. We believe that the depositions should be made public in an effort to protect future children from sexual abuse by clergy.

We expect that the issue of public release will be brought to the court after the depositions are taken. This could mean that the depositions would get released publically in the future. Weakland’s deposition was taken in 2008 as part of a civil case and is available on our website, AndersonAdvocates.com.

In addition to seeking these depositions, we argued that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee should produce documents related to the case. Judge Kelley agreed and said that the Archdiocese has until September to produce documents such as reports of abuse, summaries of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s knowledge, and assignment histories for abusive priests.




Bankruptcy Judge Rules on Depositions

By: Mike Finnegan
8/12/11

At a hearing this morning in U.S. Bankruptcy Court, Judge Susan V. Kelley ruled that she will allow depositions to be taken in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy case. Her order opens the door for the depositions of Bishop Sklba, Daniel Budzynski, and Archbishop Weakland. The depositions will be taken during the weeks of October 17th and October 24th.

The testimony provided by Sklba, Budzynski, and Weakland will be available to the court and to those who have made claims against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in bankruptcy court.

Additionally, Judge Kelley ordered the Archdiocese to produce documents related to what the Archdiocese knew about predator priests, when the Archdiocese learned of such information, and what the Archdiocese did in response. The Archdiocese must produce some of these documents by September 1st and others must be produced by mid-September.




Archdiocese of Milwaukee Posts Clergy Offender Information

By: Mike Finnegan
8/11/11

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has a website on the bankruptcy reorganization that has a variety of links relating to the case. Our site has similar information, but the Archdiocese site has some additional information that you may find useful. For instance:

  • Information on Clergy Offenders – This section has links to every priest that has “substantiated reports of sexual abuse of a minor” in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Each priest’s name then links to a picture of the priest and his assignment history.

  • Listing of Parishes and Schools (1950-2011) – Here you will find a list of all of all of the parishes and schools in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee from 1950-2011. The list includes addresses for each location.

  • American Sign Language Video – This video announces the bankruptcy claims bar date in American Sign Language.
Lastly, the Archdiocese’s website links to a number of forms and other court documents. Once again I want to note that if you are a client of ours, you do not need to worry about filing an Abuse Survivor Proof of Claim Form on your own.




Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Archbishop Weakland Opposes Committee’s Motion to Take Depositions

By: Mike Finnegan
8/8/11

Last week, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and Archbishop Rembert Weakland filed their responses to the Bankruptcy Court on the Creditors’ Committee motion to take depositions of Bishop Sklba, Archbishop Weakland and Daniel Budzynski.

Archbishop Weakland, through his attorney, claims that since his deposition was taken in 2008 for a state court case, it is unnecessary to take his deposition in this case. It should be pointed out, however, that his deposition focused on abuse perpetrated by Franklyn Becker, Siegfried Widera, and Bruce MacArthur. At the time there were only limited questions about Fr. Lawrence Murphy (the priest who was director of Saint John’s School for the Deaf). Weakland, who is 84 years old, argues that there is no urgent need for his deposition now, since the bar date is not until February.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s opposition to the taking of any depositions centers around three main points. First, it argues that depositions are unnecessary to preserve evidence since those who would be deposed are not at risk of dying and thus, destroying evidence. Next, the Archdiocese says, in essence, that these depositions could be a waste of time and resources since not all survivors have come forward so the scope of questioning is not sufficiently narrowed. Lastly, it claims that depositions will not aid in discovering additional abuse survivors, instead, the Archdiocese’s notice procedure will accomplish this objective.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is clearly opposed to any depositions being taken at this time and asks the Court to deny the committee’s motion to take said depositions. Meanwhile the committee and individual survivors’ lawyers will continue to request that the court grant these depositions.




Cemetery Trust Sues Creditors’ Committee in Bankruptcy Court

By: Mike Finnegan
7/29/11

Father Listecki One of the first big issues in the Milwaukee bankruptcy case is likely to concern the Milwaukee Archdiocese’s cemetery trust. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported that the trust account was created in 2007 and holds over $53 million. On June 28th the trust filed a complaint against the creditors’ committee in bankruptcy court asking the court to exempt its funds from the reorganization process and protect the money for cemetery and mausoleum use only.

Despite Archbishop Listecki being the cemetery trust fund’s only trustee, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee maintains that the cemetery trust is a separate entity. The Archdiocese operates and maintains its cemeteries and then is reimbursed by the trust on a quarterly basis.

The trust filed its complaint just a week after the creditors’ committee received approval to hire BRG as its financial advisors. As BRG scrutinizes the Archdiocese’s money transfers and the trust claims it should be protected from disbursements, this matter is bound to be a central issue in the bankruptcy case.




Priest Profile: Gale Leifeld

By: Mike Finnegan
7/26/11

Father Nowak Father Gale Leifeld was the rector and principal at St. Lawrence Seminary for 28 years and then in 1982 became the academic dean at Sacred Heart School of Theology in Franklin, Wisconsin, where he served until 1993. Father Leifeld was a member of the Capuchin order but served his entire career as a priest in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

The Capuchins were aware of incidents of sexual abuse by Father Leifeld at least as early as 1966 when a seminary student reported he was sexually assaulted by Leifeld. Capuchin officials failed to acknowledge the abuse and after many years of similar reports, the Capuchins moved Leifeld to Sacred Heart School of Theology. In the early 1990s Archbishop of Milwaukee Rembert Weakland ordered Father Leifeld to be removed from ministry. One year later Weakland allowed for Leifeld’s return to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, where he served until he was placed on restriction in 1993.

More information on Father Leifeld can be found at BishopAccounability.org.




Wisconsin Priest Sentenced to Jail for Sexual Comments

By: Mike Finnegan
7/22/11

Kenosha, Wisconsin Priest Fr. Michael Nowak was sentenced yesterday after pleading guilty to having sexually explicit phone conversations with two teenage girls. Fr. Nowak will serve 30 days in jail and be on probation for one year. Fr. Nowak was serving as pastor at St. Therese of Lisieux Parish in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee when he met and contacted the two girls.

Fr. Nowak was suspended from St. Therese of Lisieux in May when police began an investigation into Nowak’s behavior with a young girl. Soon after, Archbishop Listecki placed Nowak on administrative leave from the Archdiocese.

The case against Nowak demonstrates the proper response to allegations of inappropriate sexual behavior and the importance of reporting to civil authorities. Thankfully, one of the victims reported the inappropriate phone call to her parents who then called the police. Once the allegation against Nowak was reported to police, an investigation began immediately. Now, just two months after reports surfaced, Nowak is in jail and suspended from ministry. Unfortunately, had the victim’s parents reported to the Archdiocese, police may not have been called and Nowak may have stayed at his parish.

Policies endorsed by the Vatican and the United States Catholic Conference of Bishops (USCCB) do not require officials to report any allegation of sexual abuse or misconduct to civil authorities. This case serves as a reminder that the best way to achieve justice for victims/survivors and to protect kids is always to work directly with law enforcement first.




Survivors Seek Depositions of Weakland, Sklba and Budzynski

By: Mike Finnegan
7/21/11

In response to last week’s U.S. Bankruptcy Court order that allowed survivors to request depositions of certain Archdiocese of Milwaukee officials, the Creditors’ Committee and our firm, Jeff Anderson & Associates, filed a joint motion yesterday to take depositions.

Bishop Sklba

The motion asks to take the depositions of Bishop Emeritus Sklba, Archbishop Rembert Weakland, and Daniel Budzynski before September 16, 2011. Budzynski is a known abuser in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee while Archbishop Weakland and Bishop Sklba have both been highly criticized for their roles in mishandling and covering up reports of sexual abuse in the Archdiocese.

Archbishop Weakland

The Committee seeks depositions of these officials because of their advanced age and direct knowledge of the Archdiocese’s liability for sexual abuse. In addition to the request to take depositions, the motion asks the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to produce certain documents related to the questions that witnesses will be asked in the depositions.

The motion notes that taking depositions of Sklba, Weakland, and Budzynski will benefit both the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the creditors because it will preserve their testimony and provide information and evidence related to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy.




BRG Will Scrutinize Archdiocese of Milwaukee Funds

By: Mike Finnegan
7/20/11

After a hearing yesterday in United States Bankruptcy Court, Judge Susan V. Kelley approved Berkeley Research Group (BRG) as the Creditors’ Committee’s financial advisors. Through her approval of the Committee’s application, Judge Kelley dismissed the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s argument that it has a right to be informed of all of the potential inquiries into its accounts before BRG is hired.

BRG While the Archdiocese of Milwaukee argued that it should have advance knowledge of what BRG will analyze and it has the right to approve certain investigations, the Committee claimed that it the Archdiocese does not have the right to control the investigation. Judge Kelley’s order signifies her agreement with the Committee since she is not requiring the Diocese receive advance notice of BRG’s investigation.

The second point of disagreement between the Committee and the Diocese was over the cost of BRG’s services. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee first argued that it has a substantial interest in keeping costs down and therefore not hiring BRG. The Committee, however, argued in response that it too has a substantial, if not a greater interest, in keeping costs low since costs expended will potentially affect settlement amounts for survivors. Ultimately, Judge Kelley approved BRG as the Committee’s financial advisors, authorized reimbursement of its expenses, and capped its fees at $100,000.

We anticipate that BRG will look into some of the questionable transfers and assets including a parish deposit fund with over $74 million that existed in 2004 but was empty in 2005, a cemetery trust fund that was started in 2008 and has over $55 million in it, and a number of closed or abandoned properties owned by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. It is our hope that BRG will be effective at exposing the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s true financial status.




U.S. Bankruptcy Court May Allow Depositions of Bishops in Milwaukee Archdiocese Bankruptcy Case

By: Mike Finnegan
7/15/11

In a significant development today, Federal Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley, who is presiding in the Milwaukee Archdiocese Bankruptcy case, ruled that attorneys for abuse survivors are able to give notice depositions of Bishop Richard Sklba, Daniel Budzinzski, Archbishop Rembert Weakland, and others, using federal bankruptcy proceedings to preserve their testimony. The Court set a hearing for August 12 to determine whether it will allow the depositions to proceed and under what parameters.

You may recall that Bishop Richard Sklba was to be deposed in a clergy abuse case in Milwaukee County District Court on January 6, 2011, but in an effort to keep the Bishop from having to testify under oath the Archdiocese filed for bankruptcy on January 4, just two days before the scheduled deposition. Sklba was the auxiliary Bishop for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for 31 years and was a key person in the Archdiocese’s response to priest abuse.

Originally the survivors asked the Milwaukee Bankruptcy Court to allow them to ask the state courts where the cases were originally venued, to take the depositions, but at the hearing today survivors modified that request to bring the depositions within the bankruptcy case in federal court. Unfortunately, a headline on the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel Web site today did not express the Bankruptcy Court’s overall ruling and may lead some to believe that survivors will not be able to take these depositions. However, the Bankruptcy Court judge clearly and affirmatively outlined procedures survivors should take in order to obtain depositions of officials and priest abusers in Federal Bankruptcy Court.

Attorney Jeff Anderson argued some of the motion on behalf of priest abuse survivors, and Gillian Brown, with the law firm Pachulski, Stang, Ziehl and Jones, argued for the creditors committee in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy case.

The Court also stressed the desire to move the case forward and referred to the signed Bar Date motion which sets a deadline of February 1, 2012, for priest abuse survivors and other abuse survivors to file abuse survivor claim forms.




Milwaukee Archdiocese Bankruptcy Court Approves Deadline for Clergy Abuse Survivors

By: Mike Finnegan
7/15/11

On July 14, the U.S. Bankruptcy Court approved an order requiring the Milwaukee Archdiocese to take several steps in an effort to notify survivors of priest abuse, teacher abuse and employee abuse of their ability to file Proof of Claim.

Order Requires Notification of Rights

The order requires the Archdiocese to review the files of some of the most notorious priest sex abusers in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee: Lawrence Murphy, Franklyn Becker, Daniel Budzynski, Siegfried Widera, David Hanser, William Effinger, George Nuedling, and many more. The order states that the Archdiocese must search each of these perpetrators files to find clergy abuse survivor’s names and send those survivors a notice of the Archdiocese bankruptcy and an abuse survivor proof of claim form.

In addition, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and Archbishop Listecki are required to publish a notice to survivors in numerous publications. The notice must contain information that anyone who was sexually abused by a priest, deacon, teacher, employee or volunteer in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee may have a claim in the Archdiocese bankruptcy.

Many of the notices that are being sent also contain the contact information for the Archdiocese Bankruptcy Creditors’ Committee which is made up of priest abuse survivors and represents all creditors. The lawyer representing the creditors’ committee in the Archdiocese case is James Stang and his firm name is Pachulski, Stang, Ziehl, and Jones.

Proof of Claim must be filed by February 1, 2012

The Court’s Order also set a deadline of February 1, 2012 as the last day for priest abuse and lay abuse victims to come forward and file an abuse survivor claim. If you are represented by Jeff Anderson and Associates we will fill out all of the necessary paperwork and confidentially help you on your journey of hope and healing.




Milwaukee Archdiocese Bankruptcy Judge Kelley Orders Confidentiality for Abuse Survivors

By: Mike Finnegan
7/12/11

Archdiocese of Milwaukee Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley ordered last week the Archdiocese to use certain confidentiality procedures to protect abuse survivors. The order says that the Archdiocese must file a list of survivors to whom it is mailing notice of claim forms and that the list is to be filed under seal. Along with this filing, the Archdiocese must also file a confidential report of any money it paid to abuse survivors after it filed for bankruptcy in January. In disclosing this information and forms “under seal,” survivors’ identities will be kept confidential and private.

As I discussed in last week’s post, we expect that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Bankruptcy Court will also soon sign an order that will require Archbishop Listecki and the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to send notice packages to all known survivors as identified in the Archdiocese’s files. Abuse survivors will also receive other forms about from the bankruptcy court. However, if we represent you and your claim, we will receive these forms on your behalf and subsequently take care of everything.

Lastly, we expect Judge Kelley to approve the notice claim form that I posted previously. The notice of claim form is required to be posted on the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s website.




Milwaukee Archdiocese Bankruptcy

Notice Packages and Abuse Survivor Claim Form: What to Expect

By: Mike Finnegan
7/7/11

Within the next week, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the creditors’ committee will propose an order for bankruptcy court judge to sign regarding survivor notice procedures including the abuse survivor claim. The order will signal the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to send letters notifying known survivors of the bankruptcy deadline. As part of the bankruptcy notification process the Archdiocese is required to sort through its priest abuse files and compile a list of known survivors of sexual abuse.

The Milwaukee Archdiocese must then send a letter and packet of information notifying the recipient that if he or she was abused by someone affiliated with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, then he or she must file an abuse survivor claim with the bankruptcy court by February 1, 2012.

The first page of the packet should look like this:

Fr. Murphy

Inside the packet will be a formal abuse survivor proof of claim that will probably look like this:

Fr. Murphy

This is the abuse survivor form that is filled out and submitted to the court. Clients represented by us at Jeff Anderson & Associates do not need to worry about doing anything with this form and likewise, do not need to respond to the letter in any way. As your attorneys, we will work with you to fill out the claim form and paperwork and submit it on your behalf.

However, if you receive the claim form and have questions, or if you are not yet represented by an attorney, you can always call our office and speak with me or someone who can help answer your questions.




Abuse Survivor Notification Process

By: Mike Finnegan
6/27/11

As I blogged about last week, during Wednesday’s hearing the bankruptcy court said February 1st, 2012 will be the claims bar date deadline. In addition to this news and the announcement that Berkeley Research Group forensic accounting firm is authorized to scrutinize the finances of the Archdiocese, other notification processes were also established.

First, the Court approved a proof of claim form that will be used to notify survivors of sexual abuse by priests, teachers, deacons, and other employees. The form is yet to be finalized and we will publish it once it is released.

Next, the Archdiocese is required to collect names of potential and known survivors from their files and agreed to send the proof of claim form to each person on that list. In addition, the Archdiocese will post a one page announcement on the claims bar date in parish bulletins, on websites, and in churches.

Beyond this internal publication, the Archdiocese will publish the notification announcement in local and regional newspapers. The creditors’ committee bankruptcy attorneys, Pachulski, Stang, Ziehl & Jones LLP, will be listed as a resource to get information about the process.

For representation in the claim process, I encourage survivors to contact our office for free assistance in filing and supporting a claim against the Archdiocese. We have been engaged in this work for over two decades and are prepared to file a claim on behalf of survivors of clergy abuse, to keep the process easy and confidential, and to do our best to fairly evaluate survivors’ claim and offer support along the way.




Bar Date Set for February 1st 2012

By: Mike Finnegan
6/23/11

Map Bankruptcy Judge Susan V. Kelley announced today that February 1st, 2012 will be the claims bar date for which all claims against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee must be filed with the Court.

In the period leading up to the bar date, the Court will require the Archdiocese to put notice of the bankruptcy and the claims bar date in newspapers, websites, and alumni lists. Similar to what the committee suggested, the Court will also require the Archdiocese to search their files of perpetrators to look for abuse survivors.

The issue surrounding hiring a forensic accountant firm was also resolved at today’s hearing. As of today, BRG is officially hired as forensic accountants and can begin to scrutinize the financial transactions of the Archdiocese.




Archdiocese of Milwaukee Opposes Committee’s Proposed Deadline

By: Mike Finnegan
6/16/11

After the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the creditors’ committee both filed motions proposing deadlines for survivors of clergy sex abuse to file claims; yesterday the Archdiocese filed another motion in opposition to the committee’s deadline.

In its motion, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee makes several arguments as to why its deadline for claims and its plan for issuing notice to survivors of clergy sex abuse is preferred to that of the committee. The Archdiocese makes the following arguments, among others:

-The extensive marketing campaign that the committee suggested in its motion is “significantly burdensome” and instead, the Archdiocese’s plan provides survivors with adequate notice.

-Methods that the committee suggests to provide notice to survivors may cause painful memories for those who do not want to think about the abuse they suffered.

-There are likely a small amount of claims against the Archdiocese since most are time barred for one reason or another.

-The Archdiocese of Milwaukee does not have legal responsibility for Catholic Entities such as Catholic schools, day care centers, hospitals, etc. that are located within the Archdiocese.

-It is unreasonable to require a priest from each parish to make a weekly announcement about the bar date and how to file a claim.

-The committee’s publicity campaign exceeds the efforts that have been used in other Catholic diocese bankruptcy cases and therefore are excessive.

-Proposed changes to the abuse survivor proof of claim form are unwarranted and the forms must include a valuation of the claim and provide documentation related to the claim.

The committee and the Archdiocese’s representatives are expected to confer via phone this evening with the U.S. Trustee in an attempt to sort out some of the differences. We hope that agreements can be reached and the notification process is able to begin.




Survivors Gather in Milwaukee for Deaf Survivors’ Conference

By: Mike Finnegan
6/07/11



This past weekend my colleagues at Jeff Anderson & Associates and I had the privilege of hosting a group of deaf survivors at a conference in Milwaukee. We were joined by a community of survivors who were abused by Father Lawrence Murphy at St. John’s School for the Deaf in Milwaukee, Wisconsin.

The survivors of priest sex abuse at the hands of Father Murphy are a particularly resilient group. All of the men and women who attended the school are deaf or hard of hearing and many were dropped off at the school by their families as children. As students and residents at St. John’s in Milwaukee, these same kids trusted and confided in Father Murphy, the director of the school from 1950-1974, but found this trust was misplaced after they were abused by Father Murphy. According to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s own records, Murphy is thought to have abused over two hundred kids at St. John’s School for the Deaf.

The conference was a powerful and moving experience for me. It was remarkable to see so many courageous survivors share their stories and be lifted up, comforted, and supported by family members, friends, and one another.




Survivors Testify on Inadequacies of Archdiocese of Milwaukee Mediation Program

By: Mike Finnegan
6/03/11

This Wednesday, three courageous survivors of clergy sex abuse shared their experiences with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s mediation program to bankruptcy judge Susan V. Kelley. The survivors bravely told stories of how the Archdiocese embarrassed, misled, and intimidated them during the mediation process. One survivor testified that, after questioning the Diocese’s claim that it had limited resources with which to pay victims, she was told by a diocesan official, “It’s people like you that put the archdiocese in that situation.”

The testimony given Wednesday was part of a hearing in which the Archdiocese sought to continue its mediation efforts both in cases where settlement agreements were already agreed upon and in new mediations. While Judge Kelley allowed the Archdiocese to pay the settlement amount agreed upon, she refused to permit the Archdiocese to engage in new financial negotiations. New mediations will be limited to non-monetary items and will not be considered final.

The hearing was uncharacteristically emotional compared to what is typically seen in bankruptcy court but the survivors’ testimony offered an important perspective on the uniquely human elements of this case. The testimony gave survivors the opportunity to express the real, personal, and emotional damage that victims suffer as a result of the mediation program but also to reflect on the lingering pain and suffering from the abuse they endured as children.




Committee Offers Archdiocese of Milwaukee Revised Bar Date and Notification Protocols

By: Mike Finnegan
5/23/11

On Friday, the creditors’ committee officially objected to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s motion to set a bar date (deadline). The motion details a compelling survivor story of reporting the priest sex abuse to church officials but getting no response, fear over disclosing the abuse to family and loved ones, confusion about ones sexuality, feelings of betrayal by men once held in high regard as trusted representatives of God, inability to connect adulthood addictions with teacher and priest abuse, and recurring feelings of denial, apprehension, and suffering.

The point of this detailed account of a priest abuse survivor’s experience is to highlight the internal obstacles that a survivor faces on top of the struggles inherent in reporting abuse when the Archdiocese of Milwaukee denies priest abuse and covers for offender priests. For this reason, survivors often do not come forward for a long time and may be reluctant to come forward at all. Thus, the committee’s opposition to the Archdiocese’s bar date motion seeks to extend the bar date to allow more time for survivors to bring a claim and asks the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to go to greater lengths to notify survivors of this limited period.

Notable differences between the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s notification plan and the creditors’ committee’s notification plan include:

Archdiocese of Milwaukee Creditors' Committee
List of Abusers Priests with substantiated claims of abuse All alleged perpetrators with pictures
Bar Date September 15, 2011 One year (365 days) after notice to abuse survivors
Survivor Proof of Claim Form Maintenance Kept and maintained by the Archdiocese Maintained by a neutral, third-party Claims Agent
Survivor Proof of Claim Form Generally Uses technical and legal language Proposed form is more user-friendly
Claim Form Attachments Survivors are to include a dollar amount for their claims and any writings on which their claims are based Survivors should not have to include a monetary value or any writings with their claims
Notice Notice of bar date should be sent to known survivors Notice should be sent to survivors and others identifiable through the reasonable outreach efforts
Notice by Publication Proposed protocol includes print media ads in area newspapers and letter sent to parishes and schools Expanded publication efforts requiring posting in all parishes and schools, publication in parish bulletins, notice on the Archdiocese’s website, press release distribution to schools, parishes, law enforcement, hospitals, etc.





Committee Seeks Depositions in Clergy Abuse Cases

By: Mike Finnegan
5/20/11

The creditors’ committee filed a motion today requesting the bankruptcy court to allow lawyers to take a limited number of depositions. The motion asks the court to allow lawyers to take the depositions of elderly witness, all of whom are over the age of 70, and who were scheduled to have their depositions taken before the Archdiocese of Milwaukee filed for bankruptcy.

When the Archdiocese of Milwaukee filed for bankruptcy there were 12 cases that named the Archdiocese pending in Wisconsin state court and new lawsuits were ready to be filed. During the course of their litigation, state court judges allowed the depositions of witnesses who were 75 or older. With its motion, the creditors’ committee is merely asking the bankruptcy court to continue the practices of the state court and permit depositions to be taken of aging witnesses.

Those sought to be deposed include former Archdiocese of Milwaukee Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba, Former Archbishop Rembert Weakland, accused priest Fr. Daniel Budzynski, and former assistant chancellor who has also been accused of molesting children, Fr. Joseph Janicki.




Priest Profile: Franklyn Becker

By: Mike Finnegan
5/17/11

Fr. Murphy Father Franklyn Becker was first reported for improper behavior in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in 1970 when a mother reported to another priest about a problem between Becker and her son. Repeated reports and warnings over Becker’s behavior continued throughout the 1970s and into the 1980s as he was moved from Milwaukee to San Diego and back. In 1983 Becker was diagnosed as a pedophile but the Archdiocese of Milwaukee continued to allow Becker to have access to children and to work in parishes until 2002.

In 2003, fearing a “scandal” when Becker was arrested in California for the sexual assault of a child, Archbishop Dolan wrote a letter to the Vatican requesting Becker be defrocked. Archbishop Dolan had known about Becker’s past for nine months before he took any action. Cardinal Ratzinger then took five months to reply to Dolan’s request and ultimately said Becker himself should request to be removed from the priesthood; only if or when he declines to do so would they have him dismissed.

One and a half years after the original request, Becker was given a $10,000 settlement and removed from the priesthood.

Click here for a complete history on Franklyn Becker.




Archdiocese of Milwaukee Files Bar Date Motion

By: Mike Finnegan
5/11/11

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee filed a motion last Friday requesting a bar date by which it would like to have all claims filed with the bankruptcy court. The Archdiocese named September 15, 2011 as its proposed bar date by which all survivors of sexual abuse by an employee of the Archdiocese must come forward. The proposed date gives survivors less than five months to come forward and asks that any claim filed after September 15, 2011 be “forever barred.”

By allowing only a short period of time for survivors to file a claim, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee fails to recognize how difficult it is for survivors of sexual abuse to break their silence and be open to revealing the truth about what happened to them. Survivors of clergy abuse need a longer period of time to bring claims.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s motion also laid out its plan to notify survivors of the bar date. The proposed plan mirrors the campaign the Archdiocese used to announce its Mediation Program. The plan would use mostly print media to attempt to reach all possible claimants and would send parishes and schools a notification letter written by Archbishop Listecki along with a “request” that the letter be sent out or published.

The media outreach proposed thus far simply does not fulfill the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s obligation to inform survivors of the way to get help. The Archdiocese knows about lots of clergy abuse survivors. They should be required to inform as many potential sex abuse victims as possible.




Priest Profile: Lawrence Murphy

By: Mike Finnegan
5/3/11

Fr. Murphy From 1950 to 1974, Father Lawrence Murphy served as director and priest at St. John’s School for the Deaf in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. During this time, Murphy engaged in of one of the most horrific sexual abuse episodes ever to unfold in a school setting. However, in spite of repeated warnings that Fr. Murphy was hurting the deaf children, officials at the Milwaukee Archdiocese allowed him to remain at St. John’s.

A Chicago priest, Father David Walsh, again and again reported Murphy’s abuse of children to the Archbishops. First, in the 1950’s, Father Walsh reported Murphy’s abuse of children to Archbishop Albert Meyer. Following that report, Meyer told Father Walsh that Murphy first denied the abuse, but two weeks later admitted to it. But for unknown reasons the Archdiocese of Milwaukee chose to do nothing, and tragically Murphy continued as director of St. John’s School for the Deaf. Later, Father Walsh again reported Father Murphy to the new Archbishop of Milwaukee, William Cousins, and to the Vatican’s embassy in Washington D.C. Walsh’s letter outlining all of his reports can be found here.

Years later, it was estimated that Murphy had molesting at least 200 boys at St. John’s. A social worker who was hired by the Archdiocese to interview Father Murphy in the mid 1990’s, agreed that the estimate was “likely to be fairly accurate.” Click here to see the full document.

Incredibly, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee never held Murphy accountable and he was never removed from the priesthood by the Vatican. He died in 1998, dressed in full vestments and was honored at a funeral mass presided by Auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba.

Click here for more information on Lawrence Murphy and St. John’s School for the Deaf.




Order issued for continued therapy payments to survivors

By: Mike Finnegan
4/27/11

Last week the Honorable Susan V. Kelley issued a court order authorizing the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to continue to pay for therapy and counseling of survivors. The order means that those survivors who received psychological counseling and therapy costs from the Archdiocese before it filed for bankruptcy will continue to have their therapy paid for by the Archdiocese during the bankruptcy court process.

In granting the order, Judge Kelley noted it was in the best interests of both the survivors and the Archdiocese to continue to pay for survivors’ therapy costs. To me this order serves as a hopeful reminder that all parties involved in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy agree on the importance of continuing and uninterrupted therapy for survivors of sexual abuse.




For the First Time Ever, Court Orders Vatican to Turn Over Documents

By: Mike Finnegan
4/25/11

In a historic decision the Honorable Judge Michael Mosman of Portland, Oregon, last Thursday ordered the Vatican to respond to a number of discovery requests in a clergy sex abuse case. The Court required the Holy See to answer the discovery by June 20, 2011. This is the first time that I am aware of that the Vatican has been required to turn over documents regarding clergy abuse by priests. The decision requires the Vatican to turn over all secret documents about its policies and procedures regarding child sexual abuse and to answer several questions about Fr. Andrew Ronan. Ronan is an admitted child molester who was first caught molesting kids in Ireland. He was then moved to Chicago where he was again caught molesting kids. Lastly, he was moved to Portland, Oregon, where he molested John V. Doe, the courageous plaintiff in the case against the Holy See.

The Order states: “Here, Plaintiff has proffered evidence that tends to show the Holy See knew of Ronan’s propensities and that in some cases, the Holy See exercised direct control over the conduct, placement, and removal of individual priests accused of similar sexual misconduct.” (Order at Pg. 7)

The case could have implications for the John Doe 16 v. Holy See case pending in Milwaukee, Wisconsin. John Doe 16 (Terry Kohut) brought the case against the Holy See a year ago. The case involves the notorious priest, Fr. Lawrence Murphy, who sexually molested hundreds of deaf children at St. John’s School for the Deaf in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. Because the decision by the Court in Portland allowing discovery against the Vatican is the first of its kind, it could be precedent for allowing discovery in Terry Kohut’s case.

For additional background information on the Judge’s Opinion and Order click here and here.




Claims bar date

By: Mike Finnegan
4/19/11

Picture of a calendar AThe honorable Susan Kelley, bankruptcy judge, will set a claims bar date in the Milwaukee Archdiocese Bankruptcy case. As I mentioned in an earlier post, a claims bar date is used in bankruptcy court proceedings to set a deadline for creditors to bring claims against the debtor. After the date passes, it will be very tough to get accountability.

In the context of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy case this means that any and all survivors of sexual abuse by a priest or employee of the Archdiocese must file a claim with the bankruptcy court before the bar date or they will have a very tough time recovering from the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese is obligated to advertise the bar date once it is set so that as many creditors as possible are aware of the bankruptcy proceedings and the date by which they must bring a claim.

The Archdiocese recently posted a series of questions and answers regarding the bankruptcy reorganization process on its website. Its explanations point to a long list of funds and services that will remain intact despite the bankruptcy proceeding. Based on its answers, the Archdiocese is looking to “wipe the slate clean and start fresh” following the bankruptcy.

The unfortunate thing about a claims bar date in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy case is that many survivors will not find out about the deadline and others will not be able to take any action in time because of the effects of the abuse. Survivors who may be suffering from shame, embarrassment, chemical dependency, depression, anxiety, or trust issues may have trouble coming forward before the claims bar date passes.




Creditors’ committee objections

By: Mike Finnegan
4/18/11

A few weeks ago the creditors’ committee in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy case filed a motion objecting to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s Motion for Order Authorizing Confidentiality Procedures to Protect Victims/Survivors. The title of the Archdiocese’s motion is somewhat misleading. The creditors’ committee agreed that the survivor’s identities should be protected but the Archdiocese’s motion also looked to avoid giving survivors the notice they are entitled to receive. The committee seeks, instead, to hold the Archdiocese accountable and to achieve transparency in order to ensure that survivors are given adequate notice regarding the bankruptcy proceedings.

At the same time, the creditors’ committee objected to a second motion filed by the Archdiocese dealing with its mediation program. The committee’s concern lies first in the fact that it knows very little about the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s mediation program. The Archdiocese has not provided this information so the committee fears that the program makes statements to survivors that intimidate or dissuade them from making a claim in bankruptcy court. The committee also expressed a concern about some survivors being paid before others. After the Archdiocese has a chance to respond to the committee’s objections the Court will set a hearing date for the matter.




Vatican Suit Served on the Holy See; Belgian Bishop to be Sanctioned

By: Mike Finnegan
4/14/11

Former student at Milwaukee’s St. John’s School for the Deaf, Terry Kohut, learned Monday that his lawsuit against the Vatican will now move forward after the U.S. Department of State confirmed that it effectively served the Holy See. The U.S. Department of State transmitted service documents to the Secretariat of State of the Holy See through diplomatic channels after previous attempts to serve the lawsuit were rejected by top Vatican officials. Previously the Vatican stated the documents were “undesired and unwanted.”

Terry Kohut, the plaintiff in the case against the Vatican (John Doe 16 v. Holy See), was sexually abused by Father Lawrence Murphy when he was a student at St. John’s School for the Deaf. Father Murphy remained a priest in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and the director of St. John’s for decades despite students reporting the abuse to other priests, archbishops, and area police. Terry’s case extends beyond the Archdiocese of Milwaukee because of information that the Vatican had regarding his abuse by Father Murphy.

The Vatican recently revised its internal procedures so that cardinals and bishops, not just priests, can be punished under Church law for sexually abusing children. Just yesterday the Vatican revealed that it will sanction a bishop in Belgium under these new rules for sexually abusing his nephew. While it is good that this perpetrator gets punished, real reform will not happen until the Vatican punishes the officials who covered up the abuse and who allowed abusers such as Father Lawrence Murphy to continue to access children after reports of molestation.




Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s questionable transfers of money leading up to bankruptcy

By: Mike Finnegan
4/12/11

Yesterday the Creditors’ Committee in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee Bankruptcy proceedings asked the Court to hire a forensic accounting firm to scrutinize the Archdiocese and Archbishop Timothy Dolan’s transfer of millions of dollars in the years leading up to the bankruptcy.

The forensic accountants the Creditor’s Committee is recommending are experts in reviewing financial affairs of organizations, including transfers of money by the organization. The same forensic accountants were hired by the bankruptcy court in the Diocese of San Diego bankruptcy and prepared a report for the presiding judge that pointed out the diocese’s attempt to manipulate their finances in order to hide funds. The report upset the judge to the extent that she nearly kicked the Diocese out of Bankruptcy Court. See article about the San Diego case here.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee made several transfers of large sums of money and also created numerous trusts right before the bankruptcy which the Creditors’ Committee believes should be scrutinized. The Archdiocese moved roughly $55 million dollars to a cemetery trust and approximately $70 million to the parishes in the years leading up to the bankruptcy. Further the Archdiocese of Milwaukee also created a number of trusts before filing for bankruptcy. Four of these trusts were created within 4 months of the Archdiocese filing for Bankruptcy. Click here for the Journal Sentinel story on this.

All of these transfers led the Creditors Committee to file the motion to hire forensic accountants to scrutinize the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s transfers. As lawyers for many survivors of clergy abuse in the Archdiocese, we firmly believe that the top officials in the Archdiocese, including Archbishop Dolan, should be questioned about these transfers as part of the bankruptcy proceedings.




An Archbishop from Ireland came to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee with a powerful message: Come Clean

By: Mike Finnegan
4/8/2011

At a conference in Milwaukee this week, Diarmuid Martin, the Archbishop of Dublin, Ireland, provided a powerful message to those in attendance when he said, “Only the truth sets us free.” And, that the church must be “willing to tell the truth and take ownership of the truth, even when the truth is unpleasant.”

I only know Archbishop Martin from media reports and am not familiar with his own track record of handling clergy abuse cases in Dublin, but I do know that his message is potent and echoes what survivors of clergy abuse have consistently been saying to Catholic Bishops across the United States.

It is perhaps ironic that an Archbishop would come all the way from Dublin to provide such timely advice in the heart of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee where for years Archbishop Rembert Weakland, Bishop Richard Sklba and Archbishops Timothy Dolan and Jerome Listecki have turned a deaf ear to demands of survivors that they come clean and be “willing to tell the truth” and even more importantly, be willing to “take ownership of the truth” about priests that sexually abused children.

Specifically, survivors of clergy abuse have persistently asked that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee disclose the secret files for each priest that had sexually abused children and release of the names of all offenders, including the religious orders priests. At a time when tensions are escalating because of the Archdiocese recent bankruptcy filing, a full and honest disclosure would go a long ways toward an acceptance of responsibility—and as Archbishop Martin said, “Ownership of the truth, even when the truth is unpleasant.”

The conference, called "Harm, Hope, and Healing: International Dialogue on the Clergy Sex Abuse Scandal," was sponsored by the Marquette University Law School. Click here for the media report about the conference.

A full reprint of Archbishop Martin’s lecture notes is available here.




Archdiocese of Milwaukee will continue paying for therapy

By: Mike Finnegan
4/6/2011

The Honorable Judge Susan Kelley, judge in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy case, issued an Order on Tuesday, April 6th instructing the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to continue to pay the counseling costs of survivors of sexual abuse by employees of the Archdiocese. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee had previously filed a motion offering to continue to pay these costs and the creditor’s committee filed no objections to that motion.

However, Tuesday’s order granted only part of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s original motion. The judge did not rule on other components of the motion which deal with the Archdiocese’s desire to continue its mediation program for unrepresented survivors and the Archdiocese’s desire to limit the information available to the public about the bankruptcy claims. Because the creditors’ committee filed objections to these parts of the Archdiocese’s motion it will be necessary for the court to hold a hearing on these issues. As of this writing a date for the hearing has not yet been set.

A recording of Tuesday’s hearing can be found here.




Welcome

by: Mike Finnegan
4/4/2011

Welcome to my Abused in Wisconsin blog. I am an attorney working with Jeff Anderson and a team of lawyers on the Milwaukee Archdiocese Bankruptcy cases in Wisconsin. Our firm, Jeff Anderson & Associates, has offices in St. Paul, Minnesota and Milwaukee, Wisconsin and both Jeff and I are licensed to practice in Wisconsin and have brought clergy abuse cases against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee for more than a decade.

The purpose of this blog is to be a source of information and commentary on the news coming out of the Milwaukee Archdiocese Bankruptcy court process. As motions are filed by the parties and orders issued from the court, I will provide interpretations of court documents so readers are better able to understand what is happening on a daily basis.

Current Status
As of today, the bankruptcy process is well under way. The Archdiocese of Milwaukee filed for Chapter 11 Bankruptcy on January 4, 2011. Chapter 11 bankruptcy is a liquidation bankruptcy process in which the debtor, the Archdiocese, maintains control of its business and property while the court supervises its restructuring and the implementation of a plan to repay creditors. The creditors in this case consist mainly of individual survivors of sexual abuse by priests or other employees of the Archdiocese.

Claims Bar Date
An important part of this process provides that the court set a “claims bar date,” which is a date marking the deadline by which all survivors must formally file a claim with the court. After the claims bar date, a survivor will be precluded from bringing a claim and denied any sort of recovery from the Archdiocese. The bankruptcy court has yet to file a claims bar date but we expect the court to do so in the coming months.

Creditors Committee
In January, shortly after the Archdiocese entered bankruptcy, the United States Trustee appointed five survivors to a creditor’s committee. Each of the survivors on the committee was sexually abused as a child by a priest of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. A creditor’s committee is common in bankruptcy court and serves as a representative body for all creditors. The committee is charged with negotiating with the Archdiocese and creating a plan to repay all creditors. Throughout the process, the creditor’s committee will watch over the Archdiocese’s operation, look into its finances, and perform other actions consistent with its reorganization.

New posts will go up as events occur, so check back often to find summaries of filings, court orders, meeting notes, and general updates on the court’s progress.


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