Some victims not happy with Archdiocese reorganization plan

MILWAUKEE (WITI) -- The Archdiocese of Milwaukee announced on Wednesday, February 12th that it is filing its Plan of Reorganization in its Chapter 11 proceedings -- and some victims say they're not happy with the plan, nor how it was delivered.

The plan will establish a $500,000 Lifetime Therapy Fund for abuse survivors. $4 million will also be available to provide financial settlements for abuse survivors with eligible claims. The Archdiocese will have an operation plan to continue its ministry in the community. The plan will also solidify the organization’s commitment to preventing child sex abuse within the church.

There was immediate reaction to the Archdiocese's reorganization plan, and not just about the content of the plan, but also, how it was delivered. Some people just hearing the fact that there was finally a plan in place were relieved, but some survivors of priest abuse had a different reaction after looking at the content.

FOX6 News caught up with Deborah Smith leaving Church of Gesu in Milwaukee on Wednesday, February 12th.

After hearing the Milwaukee Archdiocese is filing a plan of reorganization in its bankruptcy case, she had high hopes.

"Closure for the victims as well as the other people who have been hurt and healing and forgiveness for both parties involved," Smith said.

Members of the Survivors and Clergy Leadership Alliance were hoping for that too, but they say it won't happen with this plan.

The plan calls for setting aside approximately $4 million for victims of priest sexual abuse.

"$4 million comes to about $6,000 per victim -- $6,000," Peter Isely with the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests said.

Isely was abused by a priest, and he compares the $6,000 to what he says was given to sex offending clergy.

"They were paid $20,000 to sign papers, to quietly leave the Archdiocese and settle in the community. $20,000. That's $14,000 more than the child they raped," Isely said.

Monica Barrett was abused by a priest when she was eight.

"For this Archdiocese to offer that to survivors is just insulting. It is much like being raped all over again," Barrett said.

The victims say they were also insulted by how Archbishop Listecki revealed the plan.

"He announced it on a radio talk show -- not to us. Not even the courtesy to attorneys but we find out about it because it's been on a radio talk show," Barrett said.

Barrett says church settlements across the country have ranged from $274,000 to more than $800,000 per survivor, with an average of about $400,000 per survivor.

She says survivors of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee should not have to accept anything less than that average.

SNAP issued the following statement:

"Three years after filing for bankruptcy, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, which insured itself for over $1.3 billion dollars in the 1990’s, filed a reorganization plan today that sets aside a mere $4 million dollars to compensate 575 victim/survivors who were sexually assaulted by archdiocesan priests, religious and employees.

This means that each survivor in the Milwaukee Archdiocese would receive less than $7,000.  By contrast, survivors in all other church bankruptcies throughout the U.S. have received an average compensation between $274,000 to as much as $2.1 million, with a national average of $400,000 per survivor.

When Archbishop Jerome Listecki announced the bankruptcy three years ago he said that the purpose of reorganization was to bring “healing” to survivors and “make them whole.”  Clearly, this is not the case.

Instead of taking the path to healing as he promised, Listecki instead has spent over $11.5 million dollars on bankruptcy lawyers and court costs fighting victims, nearly three times the total amount he now proposes to compensate survivors with.

Even more outrageous, the archdiocese “compensated” known child abuser priests with a $20,000 “signing bonus” to secretly leave the priesthood.  That’s on top of pension, health insurance, and in some cases continuing salaries and vocational “retraining” into new occupations working with children.  That amount offered to the criminal clergy is nearly three times what Listecki believes will “heal” their victims.

But not to worry.  Listecki also proposes a “lifetime therapy fund”.  Of course, Listecki is going to control the therapy monies and the alleged “lifetime” of the total fund for all victims runs out at $500,000 dollars.  In other words, under Listecki’s “healing” proposal each survivor would receive less than $900 for their “lifetime” of therapy.

Money communicates value.  It is pretty clear that Listecki and the Milwaukee archdiocese does not value healing victims very much.

So little respect Listecki has for healing victims, he announced the filing of the plan today on a radio talk show.  He did not notify the court.  He did not notify victim attorneys.  It goes without saying he did not notify victims and their families.

Does that sound like healing?"