Archdiocese Asks Court to set Deadline for Chapter 11 Claims
Most Reverend Jerome E. Listecki, archbishop of Milwaukee, sent this e-mail to the faithful of southeastern Wisconsin on May 6, 2011.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
On January 4, 2011, when I made the announcement that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee would file for Chapter 11 reorganization of its financial affairs, I promised to share information about the proceeding as it became available, to ensure that Catholics would have access to clear, factual, and up-to-date information throughout the process.
Today, I want to let you know that our attorneys have filed what is known in bankruptcy court as the “Bar Date Motion.” This is a routine request in the bankruptcy process that asks the court to set a “bar date” or “final call” for anyone with a monetary claim against the archdiocese. The motion requires these claims be filed with the bankruptcy court by a specific date. After that date, any additional claims would be “barred.”
We asked the court to set a claims bar date for victims/survivors of September 15, 2011, and a separate and earlier deadline for our general creditors (vendors, service providers, financial institutions) of August 1, 2011. We also asked the court to adopt very strict confidentiality measures to protect the identity of victims/survivors.
These “bar dates” keep the reorganization process moving forward, while allowing sufficient time for individuals to file claims. Our goals in this proceeding have been clear: first, to provide equitable compensation for the unresolved claims of victims/survivors and, second, to carry on the essential ministries and services of the archdiocese, allowing us to continue to meet the spiritual, pastoral and human needs of people in southeastern Wisconsin.
As I have quickly learned, Chapter 11 is a financial process. The archdiocese, like any organization in a financial reorganization, needs to know the extent of claims against it in order to develop its reorganization plan and compensate those creditors. The sooner a bar date is set, the sooner the full extent of the claims will be known. This means a resolution can then be reached with victims/survivors and other creditors so the archdiocese can emerge from the Chapter 11 process.
Guided by the success of the voluntary mediation program and to make sure people understand the process and deadlines for filing a claim, the archdiocese also asked the court to approve an extensive public awareness campaign. We intend to use both Church and non-Church related media venues to publicize these deadlines, similar to how we successfully publicized the availability of the voluntary mediation system in 2004. Recognizing the cultural diversity of the archdiocese, notices will be published in English, Spanish and Hmong languages and specific communications to the deaf and hard of hearing community will be utilized.
The archdiocese has encouraged victims/survivors to come forward to report their abuse dating back to the 1990s when Project Benjamin was initiated. In 2002, we saw a dramatic increase in reports of clergy sexual abuse after waves of publicity swept the nation. Since then, the archdiocese has been especially aggressive in publicizing ways to make reports – to civil authorities, to independent agencies, or to the archdiocesan victim assistance coordinator. This information has been shared through parishes and schools, in print materials, in advertisements in newspapers throughout all 10 counties of the archdiocese, via local media coverage and on our website. Based upon our past efforts and the efforts of other advocacy groups and support agencies, we believe the claim process we propose is fair and complete.
Regardless of when the bar date is set, our commitment as a Church to care for and reach out to victims/survivors of clergy abuse continues. This is now a permanent part of the ongoing ministry of the Church and will be long after these issues are resolved.
The bar date motion we submitted also outlines the following:
- Policies and procedures for filing claims.
- Specifications of the forms to be submitted by the claimants.
- Confidentiality protocols, acknowledging that many victims of abuse wish to remain anonymous.
- Publication parameters for advertising and communicating the bar date.
- Languages used to communicate the bar date.
I encourage you to access complete Chapter 11 information and updates on the homepage of the archdiocesan website at www.archmil.org as we move through this process. If you have questions or concerns you may still submit them to firstname.lastname@example.org.
I also ask for your continued prayers for all victims of abuse. May the Holy Spirit guide them and strengthen them just as we ask that he guides and strengthens all of his faithful followers in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
In His Name,
Most Reverend Jerome E. ListeckiPublished:2011-05-06
Archbishop of Milwaukee