Leaders of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee said Tuesday that they had reached a $21 million settlement with hundreds of victims of sexual abuse by clergy members, though the agreement is still subject to approval by a federal judge.
The archdiocese, which has been entangled in bankruptcy proceedings since 2011, reached the deal after years of sometimes bitter negotiations. Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki said the settlement, if approved by the court, would end the bankruptcy case.
“Today, we turn the page on a terrible part of our history and we embark on a new road lined with hope, forgiveness and love,” Archbishop Listecki said in a statement.
Mike Finnegan, a lawyer whose Minnesota law firm represents most of the victims, said the settlement amount should have been higher and criticized the archdiocese’s legal tactics. The settlement was “not a victory for survivors,” he said, but was better than the alternatives likely in bankruptcy court.
“This archdiocese has fought more aggressively than any other in the country” facing sexual abuse claims, Mr. Finnegan said.
The $21 million will be shared among 330 abuse survivors, the archdiocese said. Payment amounts will vary, with a court-appointed administrator determining how much each person receives. The settlement also calls for a $500,000 therapy fund for abuse survivors.
The sexual abuse allegations against Wisconsin clergy are among many across the country that have led to large settlements and criticism of the Catholic Church. The San Diego diocese reached a settlement of nearly $200 million with 144 people in 2007. The diocese in Wilmington, Del., settled for $77 million with 146 abuse victims in 2011.
The Milwaukee archdiocese said its agreement with the victims would be detailed in court filings later this month, and likely reviewed by a judge in November. Mr. Finnegan said he expects the settlement to be approved.
Archbishop Listecki said the possibility of exiting bankruptcy court after more than four years was a welcome development, and he offered conciliatory words for the victims in his statement.
“This settlement represents for us in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee a new Pentecost, a day of rebirth that renews our focus on word, worship and service,” the archbishop said. “We do so remembering those who have been harmed; keeping them in our prayers; supporting them through therapy and healing; promising never to forget the evil that has been done; and working diligently to ensure this never happens again.”
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