MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- A retired Milwaukee priest is among those leading the effort to encourage the Vatican to investigate the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. He says he's trying to protect the Catholic Church by protecting the people it serves.
"The motivation for sending the letter has developed over time," Father James Connell said.
Father Connell has issued an open letter to Pope Francis, which is garnering a significant response after it was published in the National Catholic Reporter.
Connell, a senior priest with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee says he co-authored the letter because he is dissatisfied with the way the Archdiocese has handled claims filed by those who allege they've been sexually abused by representatives of the Catholic Church.
"The Diocese is objecting to all of the 575 claims," Father Connell said.
Connell says this means the call the Archdiocese made for victims to bring their claims forward was too broad -- saying they invited people who otherwise might not have filed a claim to do so.
"They were induced to come into this thing knowing 'we're gonna slam the door in their face,'" Father Connell said.
In a statement, the Archdiocese says: "The Creditor's Committee and their legal advisors were the ones that demanded the broad bar notice and we fought it."
Then there's a statement Archbishop Jerome Listecki made during an interview with FOX6 News in 2013, when he was asked whether the 2007 transfer of $457 million by the Archdiocese into a trust fund involved an effort to shield the money from becoming part of any legal settlement resulting from the abuse claims.
"It was always maintained as a trust. He was only doing due diligence," Listecki said in that interview.
"The society is a matter of treating people fairly and correctly -- doing to others as you want them to do to you, and that's the piece that gets left out when it becomes a matter of due diligence," Father Connell said.
Connell says he hopes the letter encourages the Vatican to investigate the way the Milwaukee Archdiocese has handled abuse claims.
"You just wait and hope that in fact, something will happen -- that it gets into the right hands. That somebody will understand. That something goes forward," Father Connell said.
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