330 to Share $21 Million in Abuse Settlement With Milwaukee Archdiocese

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.Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki

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.dolan

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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Bismarck bishop tells parishes to break ties with Boy Scouts after ban lifted on gay leaders

File Under:  Holy cow, you could get the gay cooties!

Bishop John Folda
“I’m afraid of the gays so you can’t be a boy scout. That’s just how our church works.”

The bishop of the Roman Catholic Diocese of Bismarck has ordered parishes in western North Dakota to sever sponsorship ties with the Boy Scouts of America following the group’s decision to lift its ban on gay adult leaders.

“I cannot permit our Catholic institutions to accept and participate directly or indirectly in any organization which has policies and methods which contradict the authoritative moral teachings of the Catholic Church,” Bishop David Kagan wrote Monday in a letter to parishioners.

The Boy Scouts last week ended its ban on gay adult leaders, while allowing church-sponsored Scout units to maintain the exclusion for religious reasons.

“Effective immediately, the Catholic Church of the Diocese of Bismarck and each and every one of its parishes, schools and other institutions is formally disaffiliated with and from the Boy Scouts of America,” Kagan wrote.

Sonia Mullally, a spokeswoman for Kagan, said he was not available for comment Tuesday because he was attending Mass in Minot.

A woman who answered the phone at the Boy Scout headquarters in Texas said the organization had no comment on the bishop’s order.

North Dakota’s other Roman Catholic diocese, in Fargo, serves more than 80,000 Catholics in the eastern part of the state. Bishop John Folda said in a statement that he hopes “scouting remains a viable option for Catholic youth” in that part of the state. But he said Boy Scout leaders should “select volunteers based on character and conduct consistent” with the church’s teachings.

The Bismarck diocese, which covers the western portion of the state, serves more than 62,000 Catholics.

Cory Wrolstad, a spokesman for the Boy Scouts’ Northern Lights Council in Bismarck, says the bishop’s decision will affect eight Boy Scout troops and Cub Scout packs in Bismarck, Mandan, Beulah and Williston. The troop in Mandan will end a 66-year affiliation with the Catholic church, Wrolstad said.

“They will be working to find other charter organizations within those communities, and there will be a good chance they will be faith-based organizations,” he said.

Scout groups pay a $40 annual charter fee to sponsoring organizations, which helps cover insurance liability costs, Wrolstad said.

The Northern Lights Council, which also includes parts of neighboring South Dakota, Montana and Minnesota, has more than 400 packs and troops, he said.

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23,000 sign petition for Catholic teacher’s reinstatement

File under: Seige Mentality

Former Waldron Mercy Academy teacher Margie Winters was not allowed in the building, but an archdiocesan representative accepted the box of signed petitions. CHARLES FOX / Staff Photographer
Former Waldron Mercy Academy teacher Margie Winters was not allowed in the building, but an archdiocesan representative accepted the box of signed petitions.

By Chris Brennan

Margie Winters, accompanied by about 50 supporters and carrying a box of petitions signed by 23,000 people who want her reinstated as a Catholic school educator, could not get in the front door.

The Archdiocese of Philadelphia’s Center City offices were on lockdown Monday afternoon. A security guard politely but firmly refused to allow Winters to enter the building.

“Because I’m so threatening,” Winters joked after handing the box to the guard and asking him to deliver it to Archbishop Charles J. Chaput.

Winters was fired June 22 as director of religious education at Waldron Mercy Academy in Merion for being in a same-sex marriage, something she told the school about when she was hired eight years ago.

“We ask for full inclusion at the table and in the church,” Winters told her cheering supporters Monday. “And we ask now for a moratorium on firing any LGBT employee.”

Winters questioned the archdiocese’s repeated claim that it played no role in her firing. An anonymous complaint to the archdiocese in June “very quickly” set in motion her firing, Winters said.

“It wasn’t until the archdiocese was notified that something changed,” she said. “You can draw your own conclusions.”

The petitions, addressed to Chaput, read, “Margie Winters’ firing was unjust and contrary to Catholic values, and she should be reinstated immediately. Please inform the school’s leadership that you will not interfere with their staffing or threaten their status as a Catholic school.”

Archdiocesan spokesman Ken Gavin called the petitions “problematic.”

“It’s wrong for any individual or group to perpetuate the falsehood that the archbishop interfered with the school’s personnel decisions,” he said.

The petition drive was organized by Faithful America, a group that says it has more than 319,000 members.

The group’s website describes it as “the largest and fastest-growing online community of Christians putting faith into action for social justice. Our members are sick of sitting by quietly while Jesus’ message of good news is hijacked by the religious right to serve a hateful political agenda.”

The group’s previous petition drives have pressured Google and MSNBC to cut ties with organizations accused of discrimination against the LGBT community, and targeted a corporation using religion to defend employee insurance plans that did not include birth control.

Chaput, in a statement last month, said school officials showed bishop chaput2“character and common sense” in firing Winters.

The school and the Sisters of Mercy, the religious order that sponsors it, have said Waldron Mercy’s Catholic identity could have been put at risk if it did not follow the church’s teachings on same-sex marriage.

Chaput clearly saw that as a possibility.

“Schools describing themselves as Catholic take on the responsibility of teaching and witnessing the Catholic faith in a manner true to Catholic belief,” Chaput said in a statement last month. “There’s nothing complicated or controversial in this.”

Winters’ firing outraged parents, prompting some to withhold contributions and tuition to the school and others to consider sending their children to other schools.

The school’s board of trustees last month held three “small-group discussions” on Winters’ firing that were attended by about 170 parents, and the board has promised to hold a “larger town hall meeting” as the school year approaches.

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Catholic bishop in ‘death to gays’ storm

Vitus Huonder, the controversial Catholic bishop of Chur in eastern Switzerland, has once again attracted criticism for quoting homophobic Bible passages and denouncing non-traditional family models.

At the “Joy in Faith” forum in the German city of Fulda, he quoted a passage from the Bible which said homosexuals should be punished by death.

Vitus Huonder
Vitus Huonder stumbles from one controversy to the next

In his 50-minute address on Friday, titled “Marriage – a gift, sacrament and order”, Huonder quoted various passages backing up his views. He also slammed gender theory, divorce, sex education and gay marriage.

Regarding homosexuality, the 73-year-old bishop quoted two verses from the book of Leviticus, including Leviticus 20:13: “If a man also lie with mankind, as he lieth with a woman, both of them have committed an abomination: they shall surely be put to death; their blood shall be upon them.”

In response to applause, he continued: “Both of these passages alone suffice to clarify unambiguously the church’s position on homosexuality”.

In his opinion, the passages also had implications for the definition of marriage and the family. “There is no diversity when it comes to marriage and family models, although a book has just come out in my bishopric called ‘Family Diversity’,” he said.

“Even speaking of family diversity is an attack on the Creator.”

The book he is referring to is “Family Diversity in the Catholic Church” by Hanspeter Schmitt, a professor at the Chur University of Theology, and Arnd Bünker from the socio-pastoral institute in St Gallen. The book addresses church teachings on the issue of family.


Swiss gay organisation Pink Cross said it was “shocked and angry” by Huonder’s comments, calling for a “public apology for the latest gaffe”.

Pink Cross said it was looking into how such hate speech could be prosecuted, pointing out that representatives of the church do not live in a legal vacuum.

On Monday, Huonder released a statement in which he regretted that his comments had been misunderstood and interpreted as contemptuous towards homosexuals.

“That wasn’t my intention,” he said, before referring to the catechism of the Catholic Church on the issue.


This is far from the first controversy that Huonder has found himself embroiled in since being appointed bishop of Chur, the capital of canton Graubünden, in 2007.

His fundamentalist interpretation of the Bible has resulted in his opposing issues including women priests and sex education. He believes parents should have the right to have their children exempted from sex education classes in school and that divine law comes before human rights.

Earlier this year Huonder called for a Swiss priest who had blessed a lesbian couple to be sacked. The priest kept his job after apologising to Huonder for causing him any “inconvenience” and promising not to bless any more gay couples.

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