January 4th, 2011
02:10 PM ET

Abusive priest suits force archdiocese to file for bankruptcy

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

The Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee is filing for bankruptcy protection, it announced Tuesday, citing the cost of lawsuits filed against priests by victims of sexual abuse.

"This action is occurring because priest-perpetrators sexually abused minors," the archdiocese said in a statement announcing it was filing for Chapter 11 protection.

Milwaukee was home to Father Lawrence Murphy, who was accused of molesting as many as 200 deaf boys at St. John's School for the Deaf over the course of decades. He resigned from the post in 1974 and died in 1998.

One of his alleged victims attempted to sue the Vatican to force it to release the names of thousands of Catholic priests against whom credible accusations have been filed. The Vatican said the suit had no merit.

Arthur Budzinski, a deaf man who said he was sexually assaulted and raped by Murphy, talked about the abuse in a news conference about the lawsuit last year.

He said the priest "may have stolen our bodies," but higher clerics such as cardinals, archbishops and the pope "stole our voices."

He made his comments in sign language and his daughter, Gigi, interpreted his words.

The archdiocese has failed to reach an out-of-court settlement with victims, and a court ruled in November that insurance companies were not required to help it pay off abuse claims, it said.

That forced it to file for bankruptcy protection, it said.

It said it had two goals: "fairly" compensating victims and carrying on its "essential ministries."

But a lawyer representing victims rejected the explanation.

"The reality is that this is being done for one reason - to hide the names of those who have offended kids and those that have covered it up in the archdiocese for years," said Jeff Anderson, who represents 23 victims.

But bankruptcy will only delay the process, not stop it, he argued, saying other diocese had also filed for protection.

"In all instances it has caused delays but ... never succeeded in avoiding the public disclosure of some of their crimes," he told CNN.

The head of a victims' group blasted the decision to file for bankruptcy.

"It's always distressing when supposed 'shepherds' act like callous CEOs," said David Clohessy of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

"This is about protecting church secrets, not church assets. The goal here is to prevent top church managers from being questioned under oath about their complicity, not 'compensating victims fairly,'" he told CNN.

Milwaukee becomes at least the ninth American diocese to file for bankruptcy protection since 2004, according to BishopAccountability.org, a database of publicly reported information about abuse allegations.

CNN's Alan Duke and Hada Messia contributed to this report.

- Newsdesk editor, The CNN Wire

Filed under: Catholic Church

soundoff (346 Responses)
  1. Hada Lucida

    Connor ur. Sullivan not too long ago explored the usa bankruptcy lawyer data on an content he is creating about them. They appointed the milwaukee bankruptcy lawyer with regard to help with financial debt ...

    January 17, 2012 at 11:53 pm |
  2. joe00269

    This is just a err.......
    claiming bankruptcy

    January 21, 2011 at 2:18 am |
  3. Daithi mac curtáin

    The amount of good the church does far out weighs the bad it has done , people calling for it to disappear should realize there are far more child abusers with in families than inside the CC what happened was wrong and should not go unpunished but the costs associated with these cases run into the millions even now billions, the church is not like the tobacco industry who have made billions of dollars (and still do )knowingly of the back of other peoples misery the church was unfortunate as it did not know how to deal with these people as pedophilia was some thing that was a taboo in society and only in the last 20 years has been confronted head on by society , Many of the so called priests who went on to offend became
    priests or were made become priests to abuse or went on to use it as a platform to abuse there are so many wonderful priests and nuns who are being tarnished by a small minority and I do think that these fine people do not deserve the stigma that goes with this sad time in the churches long history .

    January 6, 2011 at 3:26 pm |
  4. geralh

    It is my understanding that one cannot bankrupt out of court awards. Most of you don't seem to know what your talking about with regard to any of this and only want to spout your hatred toward the Catholic Church. You don't care any more than you claim the CC does about victims of abuse.

    January 5, 2011 at 1:28 pm |
  5. RightTurnClyde

    Unfortunately the Roman Catholic church has digging itself into ever deeper holes since the Admonitions in Revelations. Celibacy is on of those incredibly foolish policies they refuse to abolish and that has cause MANY problems over two millenniums. Until the last half of the 20th century they could caused by clerics. There have been abuses WORSE than these. Martin Luther was appalled. Several involved twisting doctrine to fit their purposes. They are very bright (scholars and philosophers) but they tend to paint themselves into insane corners (and to the detriment of Christianity). It seems like the "era" of Christian religions and Christian churches has about ended (run its course) and faith will become an indivudal thing. There will be fewer "faithful" because the lukewarms will evaporate. Maybe there will only be 144,000 left when the Parousia begins. Who knows? Who knows?

    January 5, 2011 at 12:11 am |
    • HotAirAce

      While I find the celibacy practice silly -ok, I find most religious practices silly – I don't think it's the underlying problem. At the risk of being blunt, pedophile priests don't bu-gger little boys or fondle little girls because they're not allowed to marry – they commit these horrific acts because they are attracted to children! Given the risks and possible consequences of abusing children, you would think they would/could find a consenting adult *if* that would satisfy their s3xual needs. But no, they go after children when they are most vulnerable, in the "care" of someone they should be able to trust more than just about anyone else!

      January 5, 2011 at 12:21 am |
    • CatholicMom

      It is not doctrine or dogma of the Church that cause problems but people who wish to ‘have God under their terms’ only.

      Every time a heresy is exposed it shows man with his pride and his belief that somehow his ‘way’ is the correct way to worship God, not the way that Jesus Christ founded. It is a good thing to expose wrong doing in the Church but sinners in the Church is not what should drive us away from the Church that Jesus Christ founded. Where can you go and not find sinners?! Get the wrong doing [as in s3x abuse] ‘corrected’ but don’t abandon His Church! It is the Church which the Bible tells us is without blemish or wrinkle or any such thing; the Church is the pillar and foundation of Truth. People are the sinners in need of the Church!

      We can talk all we want about whether or not priests should or should not marry but the Truth of it is…a priest does not need to have his attention divided between two vocations…priesthood and marriage and most desire to have only one vocation.

      Yes, RightTurnClyde, people are going their own way…rejecting ‘religion’; for they say ‘all they need to do’ is tell Jesus to be their Lord and Savior. So on ‘their’ terms, they can go about living their lives as worldly as they wish because they say they have Jesus in their heart. Well, Jesus is in every child…as each is a child of God at conception. Due to sin we turn our backs on Him and it is by His Graces alone that He lives in us and us in Him…by receiving the Sacraments that He inst!tuted. Through Baptism we are made clean, perfected by Jesus Christ and this is how we live in Him, becoming members of His Body. Because of our freewill we can fall out of Grace, but Jesus Christ provided ways and means for us to keep Him in our hearts through His Sacraments; not by our ‘doing’ but by His.

      Why did Jesus Christ found His Church with Her Sacraments of Grace? Because He knew our potential for going astray and our needs would be great to stay on the right path to life-everlasting.

      HotAirAce, we cannot forget about sins that drive Christ from our soul; your suggestion of fornication would be making a wrong decision. Just because you can find another willing person to sin along with you, does not make it a right thing to do. If fact, woe to the one who causes another to sin, so in your quest to find another and persuade them in your ways…you are piling sin upon sin on your soul. Since when do two wrongs make a right? So next time, think twice but in both cases make right choices to begin with…for your sake and your neighbor’s sake.

      January 5, 2011 at 11:56 am |
    • Nonimus

      Just curious, why exactly is s.ex between consenting adults a "sin?"

      January 5, 2011 at 12:17 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Just because two people consent to something doesn’t make it good or right or just. People have consciences placed in them by God to help them find their way concerning their s3xuality and choices they can make.

      S3x is a gift to a married man and woman; it has its main purpose in drawing the two together for the purpose of a life-long union in a covenant with God which could be blessed with children. Only with God is the union made divine. Only with God is the union holy and sacred.

      January 5, 2011 at 4:02 pm |
    • HotAirAce


      I'm not really advocating that priests routinely engage in fornication. I look at s3x between a priest and a consenting adult kind of like pope-a-dope's most recent views on condoms. If you're going to commit a sin (according to the rcc's definition of sin), I'd *much* rather the participants be consenting adults.

      January 5, 2011 at 5:38 pm |
    • CatholicMom


      Your comparison is really skewed.

      The Pope did not recommend condoms but only said that if a prost!tute were to consider using a condom to prevent his AIDS from spreading to his s3x partner, he would be showing some concern for the other person which is a start in reforming one’s mind about his neighbor…

      You’re not advocating priests to routinely engage in fornication. Why, is it a sin? You know it is!
      That is the same thing as the President saying we have the choice of abortion but we need to try to reduce the number of abortions. Why, is it a sin? Can’t people see through that double-talk?

      I almost didn’t respond because you’re still showing no respect for the Pope but your comments were sooo… in need of response….

      January 5, 2011 at 6:23 pm |
    • HotAirAce


      If one or your pedophile priests fornicated with a consenting adult rather than abusing a child, they would be showing some concern for the child, same as your condom example. Re: fornication in general, it is not a sin as far as I'm concerned 'cause I don't buy into any religion's definition of sin. But do continue to duck and dive to protect the rcc and pope-a-dope at all cost – it is entertaining...

      January 5, 2011 at 6:35 pm |
    • CatholicMom


      You may not buy into RELIGION’S definition of sin but obviously you DO have a definition of sin….kind of hard to duck and dive from your conscience, right?

      January 5, 2011 at 8:47 pm |
    • HotAirAce


      There're religious definitions of sin, and non-religious ones. I try to not commit non-religious sins and yes, I do have a conscious that lets me know when I'm about to do something "sinful," but trust me, I don't give a seconds thought to what might be sinful according to your, or anyone else's, book of man made tribal myth stupidity.

      But! As much as you might like to make this about me, it's not! It's about evil priests in your silly cult, protected by even more evil charlatans (pope-a-dope!) that should be subjected to a thorough independent civilian review, and prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law.

      January 5, 2011 at 10:18 pm |
    • RightTurnClyde

      CatholicMom you are a good lady and a sincere Christian and that is very clear. However, the early Christian (Catholic) church was already having serious doctrinal problems when Apostle John wrote Revelations and admonished them for several non-Christian practices (one of which was Nicolaitians following a priest named Nicholas who allowed celibate priests to share his wife). By 325 (Council of Nicea) many of the priests and bishops were CONFUSED about whether Jesus was a man first and THEN God or a man and God at the same time or an eternal being who always existed and became man or had a dual man-God nature. This kind of (confusion) led to several "schisms" which separated the Roman Catholic from the Orthodox Catholic .. then the Eastern Orthodox split into several splinter groups (Arianists, Armenians Catholic, Chaldean, Persian Catholic) .. the CONFUSION went on. By the time Martin Luther visited Rome he was appalled to find the Roman Catholic hierarchy were SELLING indulgences, dispensations, annulments, etc. In order to do this they had to invent doctrines that Jesus never authorized (read Mark 8) such as mortal and venial sins (no such thing) and absolution (an invention). Absolution was at the cente4r of the murder of Thomas Becket. Doctrine has been a problems since Revelations. Hence the only way you CAN be a Christian is to put all of that aside and go back to eh Christian faith in 33AD at the time of the Ascension. (gospels and Acts). The Protestant have many doctrinal problems too. Cannot cover the whole waterfront here. You are a good Christian lady but in the hierarchy above you (in the Catholic church) they are no longer the church Jesus established in Acts. So the only WAY you can be Christian is not be to affiliated with a church (unfortunately)

      January 5, 2011 at 11:40 pm |
    • CatholicMom


      My Gosh! This is astounding….so you say that Jesus Christ failed in keeping His promises….so what do you believe then? Are you an atheist or agnostic?

      I know many threw out their Catholic Faith during the start of their protesting in the 1500’s but that did not destroy the Catholic Church or make void any of the Truths She held in doctrine. So were you ever Catholic? When did you lose your Faith and to what, if you had been Catholic?

      Yes, there have been sinners throughout history in the Church that have caused scandal just as there is today but the Holy Spirit has not let evil prevail…just as Jesus Christ promised….and it is still the Catholic Church, the one and only one that Jesus Christ founded; the one that is the pillar and foundation of Truth; the One Church through which we receive the graces we need to live, through the Sacraments.

      What you propose is what many are doing…they are hunting everywhere for a church but, of course, they say it can’t be the Catholic Church because they have heard so many horrific lies from their protestant ministers about the Catholic Church, so they keep trying different churches, mega churches, some that don’t have ministers just videos to watch, but they find error, so they move on…Now, people are pretending to be content to be their own pope but what does the Bible say about private interpretation [2 Peter 1:20]? Many are ‘coming home’. Check out EWTN’s Coming Home program….

      So, RightTurnClyde, do you feel abandoned? What do you have faith in, parts of the Bible only?

      January 6, 2011 at 8:55 pm |
  6. kcfq58

    Who is the Church? The Church is the sum of all its members. My parents taught me at a very early age about private parts.
    And if anyone wanted to touch to come running to them, or a cop. I have been in the Church and have never seen any wrongdoing by the priests Ì have frequented. Those men taught me many things and have made me who I am today.
    I do not deny that there were and are bad priests out there. But one Pastor once told me we are all sinners we tend to put priests on a pedestal when in reality we are equal. We all have responsibility to protect our children. My parents taught me to tell them if anyone wanted to touch my privates. And to tell a cop if they were not around. The victims were failed by all of us. Not just the Church. I doubt that money will make the victims better. They need proper councelling and our prayers.
    As also the abusers need our prayers. Jesus did say to turn the other cheek, and ye who has not sinned cast the first stone. Jesus help us to be like you.

    January 5, 2011 at 12:01 am |
  7. Amalia Sheran Sharm

    One down.

    January 4, 2011 at 10:06 pm |
  8. Mr. Sniffles

    Why hasn't the Catholic Church every been indicted on conspiracy, aiding and abetting, and obstruction of justice on all of these many many many many crimes? I really do not understand how that has not happened. These are major felonies we are talking about. Why do religious leaders get their felonies ignored?

    January 4, 2011 at 9:33 pm |
  9. iris

    evolution needs a speed dial. religious fanatics please stop breeding... and stop trusting old men in robes with your money.

    January 4, 2011 at 9:26 pm |
  10. Really???

    Since this is the "belief" blog I find it pathetic that some atheists are hijacking it to heckle the believers. Give it a rest, it is unlikely to cause an "un" conversion and detracts from the discussions at hand. This of course does not apply to those who are interested in having courteous discourse about the current topic.

    January 4, 2011 at 9:18 pm |
  11. Gary

    I went to the Garden of Love,
    And saw what I never had seen;
    A Chapel was built in the midst,
    Where I used to play on the green.

    And the gates of this Chapel were shut
    And "Thou shalt not," writ over the door;
    So I turned to the Garden of Love
    That so many sweet flowers bore.

    And I saw it was filled with graves,
    And tombstones where flowers should be;
    And priests in black gowns were walking their rounds,
    And binding with briars my joys and desires. Great poem by William Blake

    January 4, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
  12. JT

    I love it how Catholics start comparing their church to secular organizations when it come to the r@ping of children but all other times they are morally superior to secular organizations and divinely God's favorite church.

    January 4, 2011 at 8:04 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Did you not know that Jesus Christ founded only One Church? It would be His favorite, don’t you think?

      January 4, 2011 at 8:57 pm |
    • JT

      "CatholicMom"...that's a very disturbing name. That means you are indoctrinating your own children into this cult of pedophiles just as your own parents did you.

      January 4, 2011 at 9:28 pm |
    • Really???

      JT it is a fact that organizations other than religious ones are having trouble with pedophiles. I do not see you recommending to dissolve all organized education, although not a month goes by without a new story involving teachers molesting students. I would also appreciate it if you refrain from personal attacks involving a person's children.

      January 4, 2011 at 9:54 pm |
  13. JennyTX

    I used to go to church, but then I realized that the bible is a collection of stories, not a collection of facts.

    January 4, 2011 at 7:42 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.