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Lawyers Helping Sexual Abuse Survivors in Wisconsin
Currently, we represent sex-abuse survivors in the large, multi-plaintiff bankruptcy case involving the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. There are some 570 abuse survivors, who have filed claims. That’s the largest number of claims filed among eight Catholic dioceses to seek bankruptcy protection in the past decade.
We felt strongly about being involved in this case: We felt it’s important to lend our voice and expertise to survivors in the Midwest. We have a proven record of success in helping survivors navigate the treacherous shoals of the bankruptcy system and the court system. We have successfully represented hundreds of clients in the Spokane Catholic Diocese Bankruptcy and in the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province Bankruptcy.
We felt it’s equally important to hold accountable an archdiocese that has been hostile to transparency and bent on secrecy from the get-go.
Case in point: The Archdiocese opposed unsealing prior depositions of two high-ranking church officials and a defrocked sex-offending priest, saying the documents contained scandalous information and would invade the privacy of victims, whose names would be revealed publicly. Plaintiffs’ attorneys wanted the depositions released, arguing that victims had a right to know what actions the archdiocese did or didn’t take over the years as it learned of sex-abuse allegations. A federal bankruptcy court judge recently ruled in favor of the archdiocese, granting its motion to keep the documents sealed.
Unlike prior church bankruptcy cases where a Catholic diocese or Order was facing hundreds of lawsuits from survivors of clergy sexual abuse, here the Milwaukee Archdiocese was facing only 23 pending clergy sexual abuse lawsuits. This bankruptcy filing was a legal dodge aimed at stopping efforts by abuse survivors and their attorneys to open up tightly held secrets about the scandal and to trace those dirty secrets up the ladder to the Vatican. Bankruptcy was never intended to be wielded as a club so as to allow church enablers of felony sex offenders to re-victimize their victims.
This bankruptcy is unlike all of the others that came before it. It was filed on the eve of scheduled depositions of key church fact witnesses - - material witnesses who were expected to testify that the Archdiocese's policies and practices were carried out under the knowledge, direction and support of the Vatican. While long suspected, no previous case in history has come this close to establishing the exact nature and extent of the Vatican's involvement in the perpetuation of sex crimes against children by priests in this country.
We know that the Milwaukee Archdiocese has been home to a vast number of adult survivors of clergy sexual abuse. The Reverend Lawrence C. Murphy, who died in 1998, may have molested more than 200 boys while he was posted at St. John's School for the Deaf near Milwaukee, as reported by the New York Times in March 2010. Despite requests from several bishops to defrock Murphy, then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, now Pope Benedict, declined to take action, the Times found.
In the Milwaukee Archdiocese alone, there are more than 60 publicly identified clergy child abusers, undoubtedly a small fraction of the total number of abusers in the Milwaukee Archdiocese.
The time for filing a claim is now past. But if you were abused by a priest or other employee of the Milwaukee Archdiocese, we’d like to hear from you so that we can help keep tomorrow’s children safe. Please contact us at 206-257-3590, or call toll-free at 1-855-LAW-4-CSA, 1-855-529-4272.