MILWAUKEE – Attorneys for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee filed the archdiocese’s Plan of Reorganization, Wednesday, Feb. 12, with the U.S. Bankruptcy Court – Eastern District of Wisconsin. 

Plan of reorganization at a glance

     The following, provided by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, is a summary of the Plan of Reorganization filed by the archdiocese, Wednesday, Feb. 12. The plan itself totals more than 100 pages, and is accessible at

     – Establishes a $500,000 therapy fund to provide lifetime therapy payments and support to those abused by diocesan priests. 
     – Settles litigation against London Market Insurers which will be paid out to abuse survivors and be used to pay part of the accrued administrative expenses.
     – Provides a financial settlement for abuse survivors with eligible claims, using the classification of claims established by the court
     – Outlines a feasible operational plan for the archdiocese to continue its ministry in the community, providing the worship, outreach and service that make up the work of the Catholic Church in southeastern Wisconsin.
     – Affirms the archdiocese’s commitment to preventing child sexual abuse within the church and within society by outlining its voluntary action plan of non-monetary commitments to keep children safe.
     – Ensures that no priest with a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor can ever serve in public ministry in any capacity in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
     – Affirms the archdiocese’s commitment to transparency and candid communication by making public the names and related documents of any diocesan priest with a substantiated allegation of sexual abuse of a minor.
     – Converts the five parcels of undeveloped real estate owned by the archdiocese into cash at more than their loan or sale value by using the property as collateral to secure the loan to pay administrative expenses of the proceeding.
     – Utilizes the loan as a way to come up with the cash needed to pay the estimated $5 million in accrued professional fees as required by the U.S. Bankruptcy Code.
     – Restructures the debt on the Cousins Center property to allow for repayment of the mortgage to Park Bank, a secured creditor, and utilize the property for archdiocesan offices because it is less expensive than relocating the operational offices.
     – Renegotiates the Cousins Center lease with the Milwaukee Bucks, increasing annual revenue to help offset building operations.
     – Respects and honors the donor restrictions and designations of funds held by the diocese to be used for specific designated purposes.

In a special edition of his weekly communiqué, Love One Another, sent to clergy, parish staffs and other church leaders throughout the archdiocese, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki called the plan “the next major step toward ending the bankruptcy and returning our focus to the primary mission of the church; proclaiming the Gospel, worshipping more fully, and serving our sisters and brothers in need.”

The plan, which must be approved by Judge Susan V. Kelley, demonstrates a commitment by the archdiocese, according to the archbishop, to abuse survivors and to serving the people of God in southeastern Wisconsin.

“It’s time for us to get back to what the church is supposed to be doing. It’s time for the archdiocese to return its focus to its ministry. Outreach to and the support of abuse survivors will always be part of that ministry,” he wrote.

Commitment to abuse survivors

As he has done regularly throughout his more than four years as archbishop, Archbishop Listecki apologized to abuse survivors, renewed his invitation to meet personally with them, and reiterated the archdiocese’s “obligation to love and care for those who were harmed.” The plan includes a Lifetime Therapy Fund – something upon which he has insisted, since the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy on Jan. 4, 2011, had to be a part of the plan for as long as abuse survivors need it.

The archbishop noted that abuse survivors had told him “this is not about the money and I believe them.”

He continued, “No amount of money could ever be enough to restore what was taken from them. People were robbed of a part of their lives and I understand that nothing we do today can change that; nonetheless, I want to do the best I can to help abuse survivors.

Archbishop Listecki wrote that the plan also gives remaining “unrestricted archdiocesan assets” to abuse survivors of diocesan priests. In addition, the plan pays the cost of the bankruptcy, mostly accounting and legal fees – the latter, about which he wrote, have “depleted archdiocesan resources.”

He continued, “What many people do not realize is that the archdiocese must pay the lawyers on both sides. So every decision the creditors’ committee made to pursue assets like parish investments, school funds or other charitable trusts that didn’t belong to the archdiocese, depleted our resources even further.” 

Paying bills but faced with debt

The archbishop noted that one archdiocesan asset was its insurance policies, and that “in the interest of abuse survivors” it had “aggressively pursued action against our insurance companies.” A settlement with Lloyds of London will provide “millions of dollars for the plan,” while the archdiocese will continue litigation against other insurers.”

Archbishop Listecki wrote that to ensure that the plan will work financially, the archdiocese is selling what few properties it owns and converting them to cash by using them as collateral in securing a loan from the Cemetery Perpetual Care Trust.  

“Instead of depending upon an unstable real estate market, we have been able to secure more for these properties by using them as collateral for this loan,” he wrote. “This puts an end to any speculation about the money that was always intended for cemetery perpetual care and avoids the expense of a lengthy court appeal, which could take another year or more. Since no bank would ever lend the archdiocese the amount of money needed to pay for the plan, this loan makes sense.”

Even with insurance money and the loan, the archdiocese expects to come out of Chapter 11 with $7 million in debt, according to the archbishop, due to the expenses for which it is responsible.

“The archdiocese has historically operated on a balanced budget, so the burden of paying off this debt will certainly be part of our penance,” he wrote. “I wish we wouldn’t have had to spend the past three years and millions of dollars on attorneys’ fees to get to this point, but now we have a plan that moves us forward.   

Confident about the future

Archbishop Listecki expressed optimism about life in the post-bankruptcy archdiocese.

“I feel confident about the future of the church in southeastern Wisconsin. Confident because of the faith we share in Jesus Christ. Confident that the good work of the church conquers the evil of clergy sexual abuse,” he wrote. “I am confident, mainly because of you, the faithful Catholics in parishes across this archdiocese, who live your faith every day.”

As the archdiocese turns “a page on this ugly chapter of our history,” the archbishop encouraged Catholics not to forget the past, but to look “forward to a future guided by the Holy Spirit.” 

“Because of the lessons we’ve learned, we will be a stronger, better church as we continue to proclaim the Gospel, and continue our works of education, service and charity,” he concluded.