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Priest sex abuse cases may target local parishes

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MILWAUKEE (WSAU)    Milwaukee’s Catholic Archdiocese says it will fight in court to prevent its local churches from having to pay anything toward the Chapter-11 bankruptcy in the archdiocese. Judge Susan Kelley will hold a hearing December 6 on a request by creditors – including those sexually abused by priests – to be compensated with assets from the more than 200 parishes in the 10-county archdiocese. About 575 sex abuse victims are seeking compensation from the archdiocese as part of the nearly two-year-old bankruptcy case. The church says it wants the judge to throw out 62 more claims, because those victims had previously signed settlement agreements in their cases. And it will ask Judge Kelley to let the church’s insurance carrier pay about 270 of the sex abuse claims.

Civil courts previously refused to let the Milwaukee Archdiocese use insurance to pay sex abuse victims – but the church said a different policy applied in that case.

In a letter to Catholics last week, Archbishop Jerome Listecki said he’s running out of options, but he promised to examine every legal avenue for resolving its bankruptcy. Besides abuse victims, the creditors include the medical insurers of retired priests – as well as the pension funds of the Archdiocese. Creditors’ attorney say the church’s legal reasoning is flawed – especially with its desire to prevent local churches from being tapped.

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