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. Margo

    Born and raised Catholic. Nothing to be proud of anymore. It is downright sickening to hear all the abuse allegations and how long it has been going on, while the pope sits on his throne of jewels. What goes around comes around. The priests robbed so many people of their entire lives...the church now needs to lose all it's money. On Sunday I get my religion for Dr Charles Stanley. No more Catholic Churches for me.

    January 4, 2011 at 3:38 pm |
    • YBP

      Nothing to have ever been been proud of at any time. Learn the history of your church.

      January 4, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Study your faith…Christianity…Truth does not change…take a look at the Catechism of the Catholic Church if you really want to know the Truth.
      Is the Bible important in your life?

      January 5, 2011 at 10:06 am |
  2. fireybuddha

    GOOOD!!!!!! How the mighty shall fall.

    Maybe they'll reinstate the "soul saving" fees they used to use to pay for their concealed debauchery. I personally can't believe anyone still supports this tainted and most un-Christlike organization anymore.

    January 4, 2011 at 3:35 pm |
  3. Shocked Dancer

    How can you file bankruptcy when you don't even pay taxes. Just outrageous.

    January 4, 2011 at 3:34 pm |
  4. The Truth

    For all those cheering the demise of this Archdiocese for the actions of a few you will not mind if the Catholic Church stops donating its time and resources in helping you. Keep in mind the Church circulates billions of dollars in charity. Also they run schools, hospitals, nursing homes, orphanages, shelters, soup kitchens and many other aid programs. Since you are so repulsed by the Catholic Church you do not partake in anything it helps fund, not one cent right? I bet you do and would whine like a baby if they stopped.

    January 4, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • And Nothing But The Truth, So Help You God

      Where do you think the church gets its money from? They don't create it; it comes from simple people like you and me. It isn't the church that supports all those wonderful charity programs I hear Catholics boast about all the time, it's the people. So, why not cut out the middle man? The church is unnecessary.

      January 4, 2011 at 3:57 pm |
    • Brandon

      No, I do not partake in any Catholic Church activities or donations, and could not do so in good conscience.

      If the Catholic Church is using the leverage that if we don't let their sanctioning of child molestation slide, they'll take their ball and go home... I say let them take their ball and go home and support some good secular charities instead. There's no need for myths and corruption to help people.

      January 4, 2011 at 4:00 pm |
    • Thomas

      Nope. You're wrong. I don't use any of those services or charities. You would bet, and you would lose.

      January 4, 2011 at 6:19 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      There is hardly a family that doesn't know someone that Meals on Wheels has helped.....just to mention one help to the needy.

      January 4, 2011 at 6:37 pm |
  5. Burbank

    Hooray! I was also a victim at 15. I wish it would bankrupt the whole church. Evil organization. Very evil.

    January 4, 2011 at 3:29 pm |
    • YBP

      A victim? By 15, you should have been saavy enough to know what you wanted or didn't want to happen with the good father. You weren't an innocent child. You more than likely led him on. You probably pursued him. You let it happen because you wanted it to happen. You're not fooling any one. Not at 15. A victim? I find that very hard to believe.

      January 4, 2011 at 5:21 pm |
    • Brandon

      A bit more blame the victim mentality... always pleasant.

      January 4, 2011 at 5:23 pm |
    • asrael

      And the Most Pathetic Comment of the Day Award goes hands down to: YBP...

      January 4, 2011 at 6:03 pm |
    • Frogist

      @YBP: I suppose you tell the same thing to men and women r@pe victims? How about the elderly who are abused? Are all teenagers asking for it? I don't have words for how desp-icable your post is.

      January 5, 2011 at 10:50 am |
  6. lunaclara


    Here's an example of how they failed. A priest is caught, and they send him to the southwest and think that this fixes things. They didn't know better, so okay. The same priest is caught again. Do they report him to the police? No. Do they defrock him? No. Do they cloister him? No. They remove him from the parish and tell him stay away from kids. Priest travels the country and abuses children along the way. Finally, they put a watcher on him. This stops the abuse. BUT THEY SHOULD HAVE REPORTED HIM TO THE COPS IMMEDIATELY. This particular priest is hiding out in the Caribbean, living off funds sent to him by a religious order, who have not been enjoined from doing so. THAT is some serious covering up and it caused great pain. Yep, the Church should pay. They knew about this man and they did not stop him even when he had been proven not to be 'cured.' They had the power to do so. They had the power to warn parents. They had the power to go to the police. Instead, they let innocent children be abused. Yes, they should pay. They should also be wearing sackcloth and ashes.

    January 4, 2011 at 3:24 pm |
  7. victim of democrat hypocrisy

    Hit 'em in the pocketbook and make it hurt!

    January 4, 2011 at 3:22 pm |
  8. HA!

    I wonder if Father Murphy is smiling in Hell right now, like he was smiling in that picture? I bet he isn't.

    January 4, 2011 at 3:18 pm |
    • YBP

      The good father no longer exists. There's in no such thing as Heaven or Hell. Look into it. It's time that you and many others here take your own saint's advice and "put away childish things" like religion.

      January 4, 2011 at 5:17 pm |
  9. A Catholic

    It’s a balancing act because the Archdiocese is not just the Archbishop; it’s the hungry that Catholic Social Services feeds, it’s the homeless that St Vincent DePaul houses…. Should a victim get it all and all these get nothing – no. BUT should the victims get nothing – also no. We make conscious social decisions to hold the guilty accountable but balance that against the need for the greater society to continue to operate. SO, it’s not just the Archdiocese getting away with this – you can’t sue the government and Walmart (or YOU) could declare bankruptcy if it was in the same situation.

    January 4, 2011 at 3:17 pm |
  10. Chris

    If the Catholic Church in the Milwaukee diocese is driven out of business, as some people are demanding, who exactly is going to provide the food banks, shelters, charity hospitals, etc., etc.? Certainly not the state of Wisconsin, which is already trying to dismantle BadgerCare and presumably has its eye on any other programs it operates for the poor and helpless.

    January 4, 2011 at 3:14 pm |
    • Dan

      Just remember, when it comes to Catholic Church, you are guilty until proven innocent.

      January 4, 2011 at 4:32 pm |
    • Brandon

      Which is why they've faced such consequences for their centuries of crimes against humanity, right Dan? Nice persecution complex you have.

      January 4, 2011 at 4:44 pm |
    • EuphoriCrest

      By your "logic" we should release all prisoners from jail so they can continue to support their families.

      January 4, 2011 at 5:40 pm |
    • Really???

      They fail to realize the diocese is composed of more than just the hierarchy. It also consists of every person who honestly tries their best to make the world around them better. The charities and help societies in every church do great good in their communities. These people calling for selling off everything the church owns do not realize what would happen. The people would then need to replace buildings for worship, charity, and administration. That would reduce funding programs until the infrastructure was rebuilt. If infrastructure was not rebuilt; then more resources would go for housing, worship, and office space on a permanent basis, and less resources to the needy like the secular charity does.

      January 4, 2011 at 8:31 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Chris: Can't the people who support the church support these charities? Or the people it serves? Can't they help their fellow man without having to go through the church? Are the Catholic parishioners now useless, feebled, hogtied because they have no go-between? If they really cared about "honestly trying to make the world better" as Really??? surmises, what's stopping them?

      January 5, 2011 at 10:44 am |
    • CatholicMom

      You don’t realize….these ‘charities’ are the Church as much as we are joined to them in giving. They could not do it without us and we could not do it without the structure. Are you suggesting we donate to some other ‘less Catholic’ charities or just throw the money into the air and let it fall where it may and say to ourselves… ‘Well, God can just let it blow to whomever He wants it to go to’? Getting involved is our way of loving our neighbor...
      Catholic Charities is a proven way of doing our part in helping service the poor and it obviously is working out beautifully all over the world. So how do you make the world a better place? Maybe you have some other ways that reach out that could be used by the Church also…

      January 5, 2011 at 2:25 pm |
    • Frogist

      @CM: No, I'm not suggesting the money go to "less Catholic" charities. Although I have suggested it might be a wonderful show of solidarity to show the church what its members are made of. But that is in another post. What I am saying is if the real purpose and thrust of the Catholics in this neighborhood is to make the world a better place, why is it that they would be stymied by their church going bankrupt or closing its doors. Are they less capable of giving to the poor or helping those in need? They have the money, and other charities exist to give the money to. Their lack of familiarity with charities beyond their church, should not stop them from helping make the world a better place if that is their real concern.

      January 5, 2011 at 7:37 pm |
  11. CapeMayAl

    Isn't this nice?

    We constantly hear from different religion's administration, if that's the correct word, abou the speration of church and state.

    Now, here comes a church that NEEDS and WANTS the Gorvernment's help – bankruptcy protection.

    Where does a church get off asking for this?

    It smacks of I don't want you to look at me, but I want to take advantage of you!

    January 4, 2011 at 3:08 pm |
  12. John Shuster

    Good story, bad headline. The archdiocese is choosing to seek Chapter 11 protection. They're not being forced.
    And despite what the archbishop says, it's not because pedophile priests molested kids. It's because self-serving bishops at first ignored and then concealed these devastating criminal acts. That's why victims sue. That's why parishioners are outraged. That's why this is a huge and on-going scandal that just won't stop until all of the truth has been exposed.

    January 4, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
  13. AGeek

    Tough sh-t. We need to change bankruptcy laws. If you pay taxes, you can file Chapter 11, otherwise your only option is Chapter 7 – CLOSE UP SHOP, B-TCHES!

    January 4, 2011 at 3:04 pm |
    • EuphoriCrest

      You sir, have said it well.

      January 4, 2011 at 5:35 pm |
  14. Susan

    How does anyone in good conscience remain a faithful and practicing member of the Catholic church in the face of these abominations? I know they probably justify it by telling themselves, "After all, there were and are many good priests. It wasn't as if ALL were pedophiles." But does this thinking continue to stand up when considering the massive cover-up that took place over decades. We now know the conspiracy of silence went right to the top of the church hierarchy. (What did the current Pope Benedict know and when did he know it?) For that matter, how many so-called "good priests" knew about the endemic molestation of innocent children by their brother priests, and said nothing when those offenders were quietly reassigned to other unsuspecting parishes? In the face of the truth, how do those who have chosen to remain loyal to the Catholic church, continuing to financially support and defend it, manage to sleep at night themselves? I believe the truth is they don't face the truth at all because it's too heartbreaking. They prefer, instead, the empty comfort of their endless rationalizations.

    January 4, 2011 at 2:58 pm |
    • kcfq58

      The fact of the matter is I Pray for the victims.
      But one must look at the big picture priests are a reflection of the society we live in. And unfortunately a very small minority are destroying the biggest charitable organization by breaking its basic tenets. Is the chain all bad because of one manager?
      We must see the context of the reveloutions in society in those years. What seemed right is now known to be wrong!

      January 4, 2011 at 3:13 pm |
    • John Shuster

      Great post, Susan. Priests know what each other are doing. If they were really good priests, they could have stopped the abuse and reported it to the police. Why haved all the "good priests" been so silent – before, during, and after the abuse was made public. You don't hear anything prophetic and challenging from them, except for Father Tom Doyle and a handful of others. The priesthood has lost its moral authority. Catholic parents are now the moral center of the Roman Catholic community, not the pope and his world-wide staff.

      January 4, 2011 at 3:19 pm |
    • Michael

      Susan, would you dismantle every police department because of a few rogue cops? Would you shut down the US Congress because of a few corrupt politicians? "Vengeance is mine, says the Lord". So let go ... and let Him. I assure you it takes an incredible amount of faith to believe the Lord will avenge all those who have truly been harmed, but it takes only a few sharp words to send humans into a feeding frenzy ... and in the end, absolutely nothing is accomplished. Especially in this forum.

      January 4, 2011 at 3:31 pm |
    • Luis V.

      @Michael "...would you dismantle every police department because of a few rogue cops? Would you shut down the US Congress because of a few corrupt politicians? "
      -No you would not dismantle those organizations. When a cop is found to be corrupt he is either forced to resign, fired or tried and convicted. The same can be said of corrupt politicians. What you and others like you seem to ignore is that the Church did not submit offenders (THEN OR NOW) to the local authorities to let justice run its course. Rather the Church actively covers up the offenses, relocates the abusers, tries to blackmail families into silence, and then claims it's all for the greater good. So your analogy is total bunk. The Church should be held liable for past and present crimes and it should enact a policy of surrendering all offenders to the local authorities for a FULL investigation. Until then, let the law suits continue!

      January 4, 2011 at 4:33 pm |
  15. vanessa

    @TexasPete– The Church is liable in that they knew about it and did nothing to stop it. In fact– they covered it up, and sent pedophiles to new places, so they could victimize again. The Church is very liable.

    January 4, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • kcfq58

      one must remember the context what society thought of s*xuality at that time. In fact kinderladen movement in Germany set up by leftists in the 1970s as a rival to the kindergarten movement. Its intention was to radicalise very young children, and to 's*xully liberate' them. This was reported in Der Spiegel magazine It does not make the abuse right but context.

      January 4, 2011 at 3:06 pm |
    • asrael

      Sounds right to me: let's blame German leftists for the priestly misbehavior. Who knew...?

      January 4, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
  16. Brandon

    It's absolutely jawdropping how many people's comments here reflect sympathies for the church, and how awful it is that it's losing assets that would supposedly have gone to charity. We're talking about an organization that's sanctioned and protected child molesters in its ranks for the past half century, and what you people are concerned about is that they'll finally face penalties for those action? Whatever charitable activities they take part in could be much better accomplished by an organization that's not bent on promoting its twisted, irrational worldview at all costs.

    January 4, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
    • SteveInMI

      @Brandon, you're spot on. Remember that if this money were going to be spent on the poor and on charitable work, it wouldn't still be in the church's coffers. If they had cashed in their gold-plated baubles, excess real estate, and other investments for the good of the needy, they wouldn't need bankruptcy protection.

      January 4, 2011 at 4:50 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Brandon & SteveInMI,

      Did you know that Catholic Charities is the largest provider for services to the poor in the world regardless of ethnicity, religion, or s3xual orientation, next to our U.S. government’s help to the poor of the world through our tax monies? [ How would we be doing without taxation?] Thank God, for His Church!

      January 4, 2011 at 5:57 pm |
    • Derek

      Source please. I'm calling BS.

      January 4, 2011 at 6:53 pm |
    • HotAirAce

      I challenged CM on this in another thread. She is correct for the USA for absolute dollars, but USA is behind about 18 countries (many that are much less religous than the USA) when measured by percentage of income.

      January 4, 2011 at 9:46 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      Thanks for helping out………..

      January 4, 2011 at 10:03 pm |
    • HotAirAce


      I wasn't helping out... My real point was, compared to the US's ability to give, the US is way behind many countries, many that cannot be called christian, and significantly less religious than the US.

      January 4, 2011 at 10:33 pm |
    • CatholicMom

      I realized that, but you saved me having to look up my source, and copying and pasting. So thanks, anyway.

      January 4, 2011 at 11:46 pm |
    • Frogist

      @CM: I think the greater point is, how does their charity work justify their covering up abuses or protecting themselves with money that should be going to charities? It doesn't. It cannot. No matter how much good they do, they can never make up for the harm they are causing regarding these abuses. Your argument seems to be "it's for the greater good"... Sorry, but that shouldn't be a relevant stance for an organization that claims to have the greatest moral position in society.

      January 5, 2011 at 10:34 am |
    • CatholicMom


      I have read every post here but perhaps could have over-looked one, but nowhere did I read that anyone thinks that charity work means overlooking sins.

      We can never be close-minded or blind-eyed against evil whether perpetrated by persons within or without the Church. People that sin in any manner of speaking or acting against the Church that Jesus Christ founded only speaks to the fact that there was a reason He founded His Church.... He knew there would be this need….and it was for the salvation of sinners.

      Without the flow of graces through Sacraments we would have an uphill battle against recovering from what sin does to our soul. Without a doubt, without Sacraments we couldn’t do it. Yes, Jesus died on the Cross so that we might have life ever-lasting but unless Christ is living in us and us in Him…we do not have ‘this’ life. How do we get this life? Through Baptism. Only then do our works have any merit, and only then because it is not us but Christ working through us.

      I have never said evil can be for the greater good. Working in ‘wrongs’ along with the ‘rights’ do not make the wrongs right. Only Jesus Christ can take a pain or suffering of ours and use it for a greater good. Pain and suffering is not sin or evil.

      I am glad that you realize the Church of 2000 years has a moral position in society but it does not claim that it’s people are sinless; thus a great need of a Church…a perfect Church founded by the Perfect One for all of us who are called to perfection.

      January 5, 2011 at 2:10 pm |
    • Frogist

      When the argument is made that the Catholic church can no longer do good things because it must be forced to pay for its bad things, it is the equivalent of saying, let them off the hook for the greater good. It's a distraction. And a particularly devious one.

      January 5, 2011 at 6:55 pm |
  17. publius enigma

    Sorry for out of context posts. I post as reply to a post and the web page malfunctions and posts it as a new post at the bottom.

    January 4, 2011 at 2:54 pm |
  18. Justin Observation

    Well, now we know where all those "help the poor, feed the hungry, spread the good word." donations actually go.

    January 4, 2011 at 2:49 pm |
  19. Concerned

    Unfortunately, the church is bankrupt of most any compasion. Recently, I had dealings with an Indiana Diocese...telling them of immproprieties with our parish...I'm on the board of the parish...they pretty much told me that the current priest is "their guy" so we're not going to do anything!!! While I love God and believe in the holy spirit...this is unbelieveable...I have not been to chuch since and will NOT donate a dime more for this failing franchise. I will get my kids through school there and they will only see my backside from that point. Hit them in the pocket book because that is all they seem to understand.

    January 4, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
    • YBP

      What is unbelieveable is Christianity itself. You're deluded. You probably love it. When you get tired of it, I hope you recover.

      January 4, 2011 at 5:13 pm |
    • Frogist

      @Concerned: Wish some of the Catholics who are posting were more like you. These violations of children have to stop. And it's regular parishioners witholding their money that may finally get the voices of the victims heard.

      January 5, 2011 at 10:23 am |
  20. boocat

    Payback's a b!tch, isn't it?

    January 4, 2011 at 2:48 pm |
1 2 3 4 5 6
About this blog

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.