MILWAUKEE – In October 2010, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee enlisted Stuart A. Nudelman, a retired Cook County, Ill., trial judge, to mediate a settlement with 16 abuse victim/survivors. When the archdiocese’s offer of $4.6 million was rejected by the victim/survivors’ attorneys, the archdiocese filed for Chapter 11 reorganization in U.S. Bankruptcy on Jan. 4, 2011.
On Friday, April 27, the attorneys for the committee of unsecured creditors in that reorganization filed a motion with the court seeking the appointment of a mediator. A scheduling conference for establishing a date on which the motion would be heard by U.S. Bankruptcy Court Judge Susan V. Kelley was scheduled to be held May 2.
Jerry Topczewski, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki’s chief of staff, said in an interview with your Catholic Herald, “We’re all for mediation,” noting that the archbishop was the one who had initiated the 2010 attempt to mediate a settlement. “We made an offer; we wanted to settle it.”
Topczewski said the “only way to keep the case moving forward is to have a clear ruling from the court” about which claims are eligible and which ones aren’t.
Earlier in the week, attorneys for the archdiocese filed motions asking the court to throw out seven claims filed by alleged victims of clergy sexual abuse.
“We have limited assets,” Topczewski said. “We are looking to those who have the right to seek claims. There is a sense of justice in that.”
In November 2011, the archdiocese filed motions for summary judgment. In February 2012, Kelley granted the archdiocese’s objection to negligence and denied the claim. She did not, however, grant a summary judgment on the objection to fraud. Her decisions are under appeal – the creditors’ committee appealing the negligence ruling; the archdiocese appealing the decision on fraud.
At that time, Archbishop Listecki wrote in his weekly “Love One Another” communiqué that the archdiocese would object if the claim was against someone who wasn’t a priest or employee of the archdiocese, if a person had received a legal settlement from the archdiocese, or if the claim falls outside the statute of limitations. According to Topczewski, those were the reasons for the objections filed last week.
When he wrote in February, the archbishop stated, “We are committed to outreach and therapy for abuse survivors of our diocesan priests, regardless of whether or not their particular claim is eligible for consideration by the court in the Chapter 11 proceeding.”
He added that was why he had asked the court (in November 2011) to allow the archdiocese to establish a therapy fund “that would provide resources for therapy and counseling assistance for abuse survivors of diocesan clergy abuse as long as such a need exists.” Initial funding for the fund, approved by the court, was $300,000.
Topczewski reiterated a point that Archbishop Listecki has made throughout the Chapter 11 process.
“We remind people that we are not going to let a reorganization plan go forward without the archdiocese planning to have an avenue by which victim/survivors will always be able to receive counseling and therapy,” he said. “As the archbishop said, our faith calls us to do this.”