MILWAUKEE – The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has released thousands of pages of documents related to clergy sex abuse as part of a deal reached in federal bankruptcy court between the archdiocese and abuse victims suing it for fraud. Here is a look at what is in the documents:
WHAT'S IN THE DOCUMENTS?
The approximately 6,000 pages of documents released by the Milwaukee archdiocese include personnel files for 42 priests with substantiated allegations of sexual abuse against them, along with depositions of church leaders including New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the former archbishop of Milwaukee, and other records. The documents show that archdiocese officials struggled to deal with problem priests, sending them to treatment and then reassigning them to new parishes where no one would know their histories, before eventually concluding the best route was to remove them from the priesthood.
WHY DID THE ARCHDIOCESE OF MILWAUKEE DECIDE TO RELEASE THEM?
The archdiocese released the files as part of a deal with victims suing it in federal bankruptcy court for fraud. Jerry Topczewski, chief of staff for Archbishop Jerome Listecki, said the archdiocese had been reluctant to release the files because of privacy concerns for the victims, those reporting crimes, officials handling the cases and others. But he said the archdiocese eventually realized that unless it made the records public, some victims would not agree to a bankruptcy settlement.
WHAT'S NOT IN THE DOCUMENTS?
Victims have complained that the documents represent only about 10 percent of what the archdiocese turned over to the victims' attorneys during litigation. The rest of the files remain under a court seal. Victims say they want to see those as well because sexual abuse allegations also have been made against teachers in Catholic schools, choir directors and priests assigned to religious orders, not the archdiocese.
WHAT IS DOLAN'S ROLE?
Dolan led the Milwaukee archdiocese from June 2002 to February 2009, when he was appointed archbishop of New York. Dolan took over as a national clergy sex abuse scandal was growing and oversaw efforts to remove some problem priests from the priesthood. Questions also have been raised about his actions leading up to the archdiocese's bankruptcy and whether he tried to protect some church assets by moving money for cemetery care into a trust.
WHAT HAPPENS NEXT?
The release of the documents removes a stumbling block to a bankruptcy settlement but doesn't affect the case's legal status. The archdiocese must still file a plan detailing how it expects to operate and provide for victims in the future.