Friday, August 21, 2015

Tom Doyle on Hypocrisy in Spades in Milwaukee Settlement with Abuse Survivors

Today's National Survivor Advocates Coalition News features an op-ed piece by Tom Doyle entitled "Milwaukee: Hypocrisy in Spades." I'd provide a link for you to read it in its entirety, but don't yet find it online. I highly recommend that you subscribe to NSAC News. You can do that by clicking here. If I find down the road that NSAC has published Tom Doyle's essay online, as I think will happen, I'll provide you with a link. (Later: MarkWilliam has kindly emailed to point out to me that the text is at We Are Church Ireland; If NSAC also publishes it, I'll provide that link, too.)

Tom is commenting on the proposed settlement recently offered abuse survivors in the Milwaukee archdiocese. The settlement was presented in one media headline after another as a stunningly generous offer of church officials to settle with abuse victims and put the abuse crisis behind them.

But as Marie Rhode has pointed out, the settlement stunned survivors, since it actually excludes 240 survivors and their claims, and is, as Rhode quotes Milwaukee SNAP leader Peter Isely to say, "exponentially the lowest bankruptcy compensation for victims in the United States." Here's Tom Doyle's summary of what the settlement means and offers, in effect:

A few weeks ago Francis LoCoco, Listecki's lead lawyer, threatened to spend down the phony cemetery trust that Cardinal Dolan created to try to divert $56 million, by challenging the validity of every claim of the nearly 400 remaining survivor-claimants.  The survivors had already been treated with more than enough cruelty brought on by the hard-ball legal tactics.  Continued litigation would have resulted in more insult, pain and debasement.  The archbishop and his lawyers forced them to accept a grossly unjust and unreasonable option in exchange for one that was even worse.

As he notes,

The main points need to be stressed to get greater clarity of the hypocrisy: 
            -At least 80 victims were secretly removed from the settlement without the creditor committee's knowledge, among them appear to be the deaf victims of Fr. Murphy 
            -The five survivors on the committee were given nothing in writing about the settlement, were not allowed in the mediation to see any of the case reports of the victims they represented and were not told when the settlement was going to be announced 
            -The archdiocesan lawyers and Listecki decided unilaterally which claims were valid 
            -Among the 575 claims that came forth 100 involved newly alleged clergy perpetrators.  The archbishop decided without any investigation that none were a danger to children.
This travesty brings even more discredit and disgrace to the already tarnished office of bishop.  It is also an insulting and arrogant perversion of the federal bankruptcy process and it surely justifies every debasing pejorative joke about lawyers. 

And so is the abuse story in the Milwaukee archdiocese "all over now," as the former archbishop of the diocese, now Cardinal Timothy Dolan, claimed when the offer was made to survivors? Have we "turn[ed] the page on a terrible part of our history," as current archbishop Jerome Listecki has maintained? As the settlement was offered, Listecki went so far as to say that we're seeing a "new Pentecost," which sets us on a "new road lined with hope, forgiveness and love." 

But not in Tom Doyle's assessment — not by a long shot. His assessment of what the Milwaukee settlement actually represents, when the prettifying media-spin rhetoric is stripped from it:

Sorry Cardinal but it's not all over and the proposed settlement in the Milwaukee bankruptcy process is solid proof.  
            To quote an article I wrote in May:  "The disgusting charade going on in Milwaukee was cooked up by and is sustained by Dolan and Listecki."  The outrageous proposed settlement is not the result of reasonable negotiations.  Jeff Anderson, the attorney who represented 300 victims, said "the archdiocese of Milwaukee has played hardball and has used tactics from the start that have beaten down the survivors' community and left the committee with no good choices."   Add to that the appalling tactics the church lawyers employed in cooking up the proposal and Jeff's assessment pretty much sums it up.


I have often said that the sexual abuse nightmare, a chapter of which we have been part of since 1983, is not over and will never be over as long as the system and the self-serving mindset that created it still exists.  The Milwaukee debacle, which actually began in the 1950's when Archbishop Meyer sent Fr. Lawrence Murphy on retreat for sexually violating deaf boys rather than firing him, still goes on.  Archbishop Listecki's "new Pentecost" is a meaningless insult to survivors and his "new road lined with hope, forgiveness and love" is rhetorical nonsense given the reality of the hundreds of victims who have been brutalized for years and continue to be insulted and demeaned by the proposed settlement.  Does this look like the radical change of heart and actions that are the only sure signs that an end is in sight?  Hardly! 

And finally:

Dolan, Listecki and their squadron of attorneys either fail to see what this is really all about or they have rejected it.  It's not about preserving the financial stability of the Archdiocese nor is it about what most archbishops and bishops find unimaginable, losing.   It is about treating the men and women, whose bodies and souls were violated, as Jesus Christ would treat them. 

Dolan and Listecki are likely to be at some of the events honoring Pope Francis when he comes to the U.S. next month, right? What will Francis say to them, I ask myself?

It would be rather difficult, I think, to convince the survivors of clerical sexual abuse in the Milwaukee archdiocese that the church stands for mercy and is a field hospital for the wounded. It would be rather difficult, it seems to me, to proclaim that message effectively to many Catholics who know much at all about the Milwaukee situation or the ongoing, unresolved abuse situation in the Catholic church.

Perhaps Francis of Assisi was correct when he reminded his followers that preaching the gospel effectively requires doing the gospel rather than talking about it: "Preach the gospel at all times. When necessary, use words." 

Words like "mercy" have such a nice ring as summaries of what the good news of gospel is about. But when our real experience of the church proclaiming that word to us is the opposite of mercy — is anything but merciful — it will be very difficult to convince us that such words are anything other than rhetorical, and empty rhetoric, at that. 

Not until the leaders of our church demonstrate such words to us by living them. That's not what Dolan and Listecki are doing.

The photo of Father Tom Doyle is from his biographical page at Richard Sipe's website Celibacy, Sex & Catholic Church. There's a credit on the larger version of the photo at this site saying it was taken by a source identified as The Blade. 

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