Victims submit new wave of abuse claims against Milwaukee Archdiocese

More than 550 people filed sexual abuse claims against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee last Wednesday. This is the largest number of claims made among the seven Catholic diocesan bankruptcies that have occurred since 2004 and just surpasses the 2009 Jesuit bankruptcy that covered more than 500 victims and $166 million in settlements in five states.

Julie Wolf, communication director of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, said in an email that the exact number of claims was 569 as of Feb. 2.

The archdiocese originally filed for bankruptcy in January 2011, and Judge Susan Kelley, who presided over the case, decided the deadline last summer.

The process to make a claim was publicized by the archdiocese on its website, including both deadlines and descriptions of the bankruptcy and sexual abuse.

“If you were abused by a clergy member, teacher, deacon, employee, volunteer or other person connected with the archdiocese of Milwaukee, you must file a claim by February 1, 2012 at 4 p.m. (prevailing central time),” the archdiocese’s website reads. Underneath the posting are links to defining abuse, information regarding deadlines, lists of clergy offenders, forms necessary to file claims and contact information.

The archdiocese also constructed two ad campaigns publicizing the claims deadline and how victims could access and submit a claim. This information was shared with Catholic schools and parishes throughout the archdiocese.

Wolf said the archdiocese wasn’t sure how many people would file claims.

“We cast the net far and wide — via the ad campaigns and the promotional plan — to reach as many possible victims as was possible,” Wolf said.

After the victims’ claims are received by the archdiocese and referred to the district attorney, the district attorney can choose to either pursue a criminal investigation or return the case to the archdiocese.

The bankruptcy court will decide the compensation the victims will receive when each case is reviewed.

Marquette professors were either unable to comment due to availability or unwilling to. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) was also unavailable for comment.