7th Circuit Smacks Down Catholic Diocese on Abuse Claims

The Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee is one of the hardest hit from child rape charges, some stemming from a single priest who molested nearly 200 deaf children. They declared bankruptcy but first tried to hide $55 million by transferring it to a cemetery fund. An appeals court just smacked them down hard for it.

The Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee sought to insulate $55 million of its funds from lawsuits brought by victims of priestly sex abuse, according to a letter penned by then-Archbishop of Milwaukee Timothy Dolan, so it transferred those funds into a separate trust set up to care for the archdiocese’s cemeteries and mausoleums. Once the sexual abuse victims sought those funds in a bankruptcy proceeding, however, the archdiocese claimed that it had a religious liberty right not to use that money to compensate victims of abuse.

Though a federal district judge agreed with the archdiocese that its religious freedom includes this right not to compensate victims in 2013, a bipartisan panel of the United States Court of Appeals for the Seventh Circuit reversed that decision on Monday. The Seventh Circuit noted that “the issue of whether the Archdiocese actually made a fraudulent, preferential or avoidable transfer is not before us,” so it remains to be seen whether the abuse victims will be compensated out of the $55 million worth of funds. Nevertheless, the Seventh Circuit’s decision means that the archdiocese will not be able to hide behind claims of religious liberty in order to avoid liability for the actions of its clergy — or, at least, it means as much so long as it is not reversed on appeal.

At least 45 Milwaukee priests face allegations of sexual abuse, including one priest who was accused of molesting close to 200 deaf boys. The cemetery trust was created after the archdiocese agreed to a $17 million settlement involving ten victims who alleged that they were abused by priests in California, but the $55 million worth of funds were not transferred to that trust until after a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision which allowed other lawsuits by alleged victims of priestly abuse to move forward. Dolan, who is now a cardinal and the Archbishop of New York, wrote to the Vatican regarding the $55 million in funds that “[b]y transferring these assets to the Trust, I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.”

Suffer the little children, indeed.

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  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    Though a federal district judge agreed with the archdiocese that its religious freedom includes this right not to compensate victims in 2013…

    Wait, WHAT?! A FEDERAL JUDGE agreed that “religious freedom” meant the Church had a right to dodge responsibility for their actions? Lemme guess, he’s a Bush Jr. appointee, right?

    When the fuck are we ever going to stand up and fight this blatant establishment of religion? Hell, this is going into “title of nobility” territory.

  • http://www.thelosersleague.com theschwa

    HEY! God NEEDS that money! It is his money. HE did not molest those kids, why should he pay?? It’s not like he had the power to stop those priests from hurting those kids and just stood by and did nothing.

  • Sastra

    One of these molesting Milwaukee area priests spent a good deal of time in a church not far from me, during which time the beloved Father molested more boys. I have Catholic friends who attended that church. From what I can tell they approached it — and the cover-up — with the attitude that people aren’t perfect, the Church isn’t perfect, it’s unfair to expect that, and one simply needs to struggle through this test of faith and love God harder.

  • John Pieret

    Suffer the little children, indeed.

    So what’s the problem? The little children suffered and now they can come unto Jesus in heaven. Jesus never said anything like give up all that you have in order to follow him and you have no idea what those red silk robes cost!

  • http://motherwell.livejournal.com/ Raging Bee

    …one simply needs to struggle through this test of faith and love God harder.

    That’s what the priests were doing, after they saw the face of God in all those children.

  • http://howlandbolton.com richardelguru

    The bastards really miss Privilegium clericale.

  • grumpyoldfart

    Smacked down? So far they haven’t lost a cent. They’re as happy as pigs in shit.

  • EnlightenmentLiberal

    Wait, WHAT?! A FEDERAL JUDGE agreed that “religious freedom” meant the Church had a right to dodge responsibility for their actions? Lemme guess, he’s a Bush Jr. appointee, right?

    It’s probably much more complicated. I hope. Don’t trust a news site’s synopsis of new scientific findings, or new court decisions.