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Local parishes may be sued over Milwaukee priest-abuse

by
Church abuse graphic.
Church abuse graphic.

MILWAUKEE (WSAU)   For the first time, local parishes are being targeted in the bankruptcy petition filed by the Milwaukee Catholic Archdiocese. At a court hearing yesterday, attorneys for almost 600 people sexually abused by priests said they would try to tap parish assets in order to compensate the victims. A committee for abuse victims and other creditors in the bankruptcy case said the assets and liabilities of parishes throughout the 10-county archdiocese should be consolidated. It would end the separate incorporations by the archdiocese and its churches – which were established over a century ago.

Greendale pastor Alan Jurkus said the creditors’ strategy could backfire. He said Catholics have a fair amount of sympathy for the sex abuse victims – but that could change if the creditors start dragging the parishes into the case. The victims’ committee also said there’s still a chance that the church can use insurance to compensate victims. They said the courts struck down the use of one policy, but two others could be available.

Bankruptcy Judge Susan Kelley said she was disappointed in the creditors’ new legal challenges. She said a negotiated settlement is still the best way to keep the church in business, while fairly compensating the sex abuse victims.

The next hearing in the case is set for October 31st. The judge will decide whether the victims can sue to recover $35-million taken off the archdiocese books from a cemetery fund in 2005.

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