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550 abuse claims filed against Milwaukee Archdiocese

(MSN.com, February 2, 2012)

MILWAUKEE - About 550 people are asking for restitution for alleged sexual abuse by clergy in the Archdiocese of Milwaukee — more than in any of the other U.S. dioceses that have filed for bankruptcy protection, according to a lawyer involved in the Milwaukee case.

The Milwaukee Archdiocese filed for bankruptcy protection last year, saying pending sex-abuse lawsuits could leave it with debts it couldn't afford.

The archdiocese has paid more than $30 million in settlements and other court costs related to allegations of clergy abuse and more than a dozen suits against it have been halted because of the bankruptcy proceedings. One priest alone is accused of abusing some 200 boys at a suburban school for deaf students from 1950 to 1974.

James Stang, a bankruptcy lawyer who represents creditors in the Wisconsin case, estimated that about 550 claims had been filed by the Wednesday afternoon deadline set by the bankruptcy court.

Those who filed claims will end up splitting a settlement amount that will be determined by the creditors' committee, archdiocese and its insurance company. The archdiocese had only $4.6 million in assets to be applied to claims in 2010.

A victims' advocacy group called the number of filings "extraordinarily tragic," but said that represented only a small portion of people abused by clergy.

"It's sad and it just shows how devastating these crimes have been on this community but it's obviously far from over," said Peter Isely, the Midwest director for the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests.

The other seven Catholic dioceses in the U.S. that have filed for bankruptcy since the clergy abuse scandal erupted in 2002 in Boston are in Davenport, Iowa; Fairbanks, Alaska; Portland, Ore.; San Diego, Cal.; Spokane, Wash.; Tucson, Ariz.; and Wilmington, Del. Two other religious orders have also filed for bankruptcy.

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