The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee filed Tuesday for bankruptcy protection to help it meet weighty financial obligations brought on by the child sex abuse scandal that has rocked the church for decades.
Bankruptcy protection would allow the Midwestern archdiocese, where a priest has been accused of molesting hundreds of deaf boys from the 1950s to the 1970s, to "fairly and equitably fulfill obligations" to victims of abusive clergy and to parishioners, Archbishop Jerome Listecki said.
The archdiocese will "use available funds to compensate victims with unresolved claims in a single process overseen by a court, ensuring that all are treated equitably," Listecki said.
Lawrence Murphy allegedly molested up to 200 boys at a school for the deaf in Milwaukee over two and a half decades starting in the 1950s.
The New York Times published documents in March showing that top Vatican officials, including then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who was elected pope in 2005, never took action against Murphy, despite many warnings from U.S. bishops.
Days after the Times published the documents, one of Murphy's victims said Pope Benedict XVI knew that the priest had abused boys and should be held accountable.
Murphy died in 1998, having never been defrocked.
The Milwaukee Archdiocese is a defendant in 13 sex abuse lawsuits, according to audited financial accounts from last year.
An attempt to reach a negotiated settlement with several defendants recently failed, and, in another blow to the archdiocese, an appeals court in Wisconsin ruled in November that insurance companies are not bound to contribute to any financial settlement of a sex abuse case.
© AFP 2013