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Mike Bryant
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Archdiocese of Milwaukee Bankruptcy is Bringing Up Some Interesting Issues

10 comments

Recently I wrote about the bankruptcy of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The follow up has been interesting to say the least.

The Milwaukee Journal has been reporting the numbers:

Its financial statements, filed with the court this week, list $40.7 million in assets and $24 million in liabilities, including $13.7 million for a health care plan for retired priests.

But, the question is whether this is all of the money? The paper reported that:

Attorney Jeffrey Anderson of St. Paul implied the archdiocese engaged in a shell game during a bankruptcy hearing before Assistant U.S. Trustee David Asbach.

Anderson questioned archdiocese chief financial officer John Marek about the whereabouts of a $75 million account that last appeared on the archdiocese’s audited annual financial statements in 2003-’04. And he questioned the transfer of a separate $55 million into a newly created cemetery trust in 2008, a year after the Wisconsin Supreme Court opened the door for victims to sue the archdiocese for fraud.

Marek, who was hired by the archdiocese in 2007, could not answer questions about the $75 million. He said the cemetery funds had previously been in an account under the control of the archbishop but had always been “treated as a trust.”

What is clear is that there is a lot of property there and a number of people are making claims. What will be interesting is whether the church leadership is truly pushed by the bankruptcy court to make full disclosures. Compare how the local court went after Denny Hecker:

Hecker claimed poverty in a bankruptcy filing, but was accused of shifting cash and secreting assets before and after the filing. A pre-sentencing report said he misled authorities on cash transactions even after pleading guilty in September.

“The actions you’ve taken are not consistent with someone who can be trusted, and you have not been as truthful as you could have been in the court system,” U.S. District Judge Joan Ericksen said at Friday’s sentencing hearing.

“Therefore, you do not get a break,” she told Hecker.

He is going to prison for 10 years and the bankruptcy court isn’t allowing any shenanigans. Let’s see if justice is blind to the parties.

Abuse of children and the continued silence by the offenders needs to be prevented. If you suffered, saw, or suspected such events, it is important to know that there is help out there.

10 Comments

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  1. up arrow

    You obviously have missed or are ignoring the very strong denials being issued by Archbishop Timothy Dolan, the former Archbishop of Milwaukee who now heads up New York (http://www.archmil.org/archmil/home/ArchmilBlog/TMD_021511.htm). He is clear that the money Anderson is alleging to have been deliberately hidden was money from two sources: $75 million was money that belonged to parishes and was returned to parishes and $55 million was for a cemetery fund. He is clear that these actions were taken under the advice and direction of the Archdiocesan Finance Board.

    To not include that information, which has been out for a number of days now, in this story is to mislead your readers.

    Anderson’s only interest is in building his profile and making the Archdiocese look worse than it already does.

  2. Mike Bryant says:
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    I appreciate the update, I had not seen the story until today, although from my reading the representative didn’t say anything at the hearing and it was the Church blog that you linked where they are making this argument. I would hope that the bankruptcy court will do justice.
    I don’t think Jeff needs a greater profile, but see that you have written about him a number of times.
    Thanks for taking the time to read and comment.

  3. SB says:
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    I think it’s funny that Mr. Szyszkiewicz takes Archbishop Dolan’s word as gold. EVERY OTHER DIOCESE that has had these abuse claims come forward, has done the same thing: filed for bankruptcy. Really? As if the Catholic Church is bankrupt. Give us all a break. I don’t think anyone can “make the Archdiocese look worse than they already do.” They’ve done a good enough job on their own. Hiding sex offenders and allowing them access to children for years on end is dispicable.

  4. Mike Bryant says:
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    The hiding is a very bad thing and hopefully the truth will keep coming out. Thanks for reading and the comment.

  5. up arrow

    SB, your claim that “EVERY OTHER DIOCESE that has had these abuse claims come forward, has done the same thing: filed for bankruptcy” is patently false. Milwaukee is the 8th diocese to file for bankruptcy, but there are plenty of others that have had accusations leveled at them, from the big ones (Boston, NY, L.A., St. Paul-Minneapolis) to the small ones (Winona, Minn.; Fargo, N.D.; Saginaw, Mich.), and lots of others in between, yet none of these has filed.

    And yes I do take Archbishop Dolan at his word. Unlike others, I know many bishops personally, including Archbishop Dolan’s successor in Milwaukee, and those who I know are true and honest men who are as repulsed by the thought of their priests preying on boys and girls and young men and women as anyone else is.

    Mr. Bryant, please note that I did not say that Anderson “needs” a bigger profile. I said his “only interest is in building his profile.” A bit of a difference, those two.

  6. Mike Bryant says:
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    I saw the “Really?” at the end of the sentence from SB in a different way than you did. But, either way, you are correct in the number of Diocese’s that have filed.
    How do they stand on expanding the statute of limitation in Minnesota and across the country? Seems if they really wanted to help that would be an easy thing.
    How about expanding “zero tolerance” to the rest of the world and making sure it’s followed in the US? Another no brainier if they really are repulsed.
    I understand what you said in the comment, I was just pointing out that you seem to be helping with Jeff’s profile with your own writings.
    Again, I appreciate you comments.

  7. up arrow

    Mike,

    Thanks for your reply. On the statute of limitations issue, the Church has responded in various ways depending on what the proposed changes are. In some places (I think Colorado is one, though I can’t recall exactly where off the top of my head), Church officials have actually supported a change in the statutes to something more reasonable than the four-years-after-reaching-majority business. But where the proposal has been to drop them altogether or to declare a two-year open-season (with the Church as the primary target), Church officials have opposed those because that’s simply bad law and any lawyer worth his salt knows that. If I can make the claim when I’m 90-years-old that someone whose name I can’t remember molested me when I was 7, how is it possible to defend against such an accusation? That is simply unjust.

    As for making “zero tolerance” mandatory across the world it is, as has been said in other fora, simply not possible. Imagine what would happen in Pakistan or in Indian states like Orissa or other countries where the Church is an oppressed minority, such as China. In case you’re unaware, Pakistan’s “blasphemy” law makes it a capital crime to “blaspheme” Muhammad and one Catholic woman is currently on death row for this supposed crime and another one has recently been arrested for it. “Zero tolerance” would set up a situation where anyone with any motive could make a claim that a priest had molested. It is not difficult to imagine the mob “justice” that would ensue in such places.

    And my only reason for writing about Anderson is that he keeps opening his mouth.

  8. Mike Bryant says:
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    Interesting, I find you examples extreme, but there does seem to be some potential middle ground. Minnesota could use a much better law.
    I doubt Jeff is going to stop, so at least you will have topics to cover.
    Take care.

  9. SB says:
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    I hope that not only the Catholic Church, but other religious institutions, and society in general, opens their eyes to the fact that all children need to be protected and the current policies in place aren’t working (inside and outside the church). Either that, or they aren’t being enforced. Many “mandated reporters” are afraid to step forward for fear of repurcussions, personally or professionally. Sexual abuse is a horrendous situation and I hope that everyone realizes the rights of children are, and should be, the main focus. Not to mention child pornography being a $3 billion business, but that’s left for another day. The church needs to change their secretive ways and perhaps their canon law needs to be re-evaluated – sexual abuse is a crime, bottom line, and everyone should be subject to answer to their peers as no one is above the law nor should they be exempt from this type of judicial process; including the Holy See. Do we make other religious headquarters soverign states or exempt them from certain judicial processes? Doubtful. I respect your views and for whomever you support. My interests lie in the rights of a child and to protect all of our children from experiencing something terrible like sexual abuse. It’s one of the most underreported crimes and if this will prompt others to come forward and face their past (or present) and bring their perpetrator to justice, then it’s just one more step in the right direction.

  10. Mike Bryant says:
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    SB you are hitting on some of the most important issues:
    – innocent victims
    – under reporting
    – secretive groups
    It is important that the message about help and the ability to do something continue to get out.
    Thanks for the additional comment.