Archdiocese to Establish Therapy Fund (11/21/11)
The following is Archbishop Listecki's weekly e-mail communication, "Love One Another," sent to the faithful of southeastern Wisconsin on November 21, 2011.
Dear Brothers and Sisters in Christ,
When the Archdiocese of Milwaukee filed for Chapter 11 financial reorganization in January 2011, I pledged to keep you updated on progress in the court proceedings. Since then, we have been diligent in maintaining the archdiocesan website as a complete resource for information regarding the progress of the Chapter 11 proceedings.
Over the course of the next several months, the focus of the archdiocese will be on developing a Plan of Reorganization. In a bankruptcy proceeding, the debtor (in this case the archdiocese) is required to file a Plan of Reorganization that proposes how it will settle the financial claims against it and how it proposes to operate after the Chapter 11 proceeding is complete.
As part of the Plan of Reorganization, we will ask the bankruptcy judge to allow us to establish a fund dedicated to providing therapy and counseling to abuse victims of diocesan clergy. Currently, the archdiocese spends approximately $70,000 each year for therapy and counseling for abuse survivors who come forward for this assistance. This fund will be launched with an initial contribution of $300,000. The therapy fund will be “evergreen,” meaning that it will be established in a way that allows it to be replenished, so that payments for therapy will continue for as long as abuse victims come forward for such assistance. We are establishing it, not because we are required to, but because our commitment in faith calls us to do so. Let me explain.
As you know, the bankruptcy process is a financial proceeding designed to compensate those making claims. I have stated previously, and want to emphasize again, that beyond financial settlements, outreach and assistance to abuse survivors is an ongoing and permanent ministry of the Church. The most important thing we as a Church can and must do, is to continue to provide therapy assistance to those who have been harmed, even if their claims are not recognized under civil law, which may be the case for certain of the claims filed against the archdiocese in the Chapter 11 proceeding.
In order to prepare the Plan of Reorganization, it is important to know how many claims will qualify for compensation and which claims cannot be honored. Soon, attorneys for the archdiocese will be filing motions to ask the judge to decide which claims against the archdiocese will be allowed under bankruptcy law. If the court is not going to allow a particular type of claim (for example, a claim that is past the statute of limitations; a claim brought by an individual who previously reached a legal settlement with the archdiocese; or a claim against a person who was never an employee of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee), then people need to know this so they have a realistic expectation as they proceed with the claims.
Each individual’s circumstance is heartfelt. When we decided to establish the therapy fund, it was these individuals I was concerned about. Even if their claims do not qualify for compensation under civil law, the archdiocese remains committed to assisting abuse survivors of diocesan priests by paying for counseling and therapy.
At the beginning of the Chapter 11 process, I made it clear that the archdiocese had two goals: first, to provide for victims/survivors with unresolved claims, and second, to carry on the essential ministries of the archdiocese in order to meet the needs of parishes, parishioners and others who rely upon the Church for assistance.
The decision of the court about which claims qualify under the law allows the Plan of Reorganization to provide equitable compensation to abuse survivors while continuing the ongoing work and ministry of the Church.
The establishment of the therapy fund ensures that both these goals are met and that abuse survivors of diocesan clergy – whether they have a claim allowed by the bankruptcy court or not – will be able to receive the therapy assistance they need.
Asking for your prayers for all involved in this Chapter 11 proceeding, especially those survivors of clergy sexual abuse, I am,
Sincerely yours in Christ,
Most Reverend Jerome E. ListeckiPublished:11/22/2011
Archbishop of Milwaukee