The Back Story of a Sex Scandal

January 4, 2011 4:38:47 PM PST
The Catholic priest sex abuse scandal claimed another victim Tuesday, but this time that victim is the Church itself.

At least that is what the archbishop of Milwaukee said as the diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy.

In Tueday's Intelligence Report: The Back Story of a Sex Scandal.

As startling and headline-grabbing as the bankruptcy is the fact that it was forecast months ago by the archbishop who executed the decision Tuesday.

A South Side Chicagoan, Jerome Listecki, celebrated his one year-anniversary as Milwaukee archbishop by announcing that his church would file for bankruptcy.

"In my installation homily on January 4, 2010, I spoke of the devastation of sin and its effect on us personally and as a community. We see the result of that sin today. This action is occurring because priest-perpetrators sexually abused minors," said Archbishop Listecki.

Archbishop Listecki told reporters in Milwaukee that the bankruptcy was 20 years in the making in millions of dollars paid out to more than 200 victims abused by priests.

Once the pastor at St. Ignatius Parish on the Northwest Side of Chicago, Listecki enjoys recalling how at age 3 he saw a Roman Catholic priest and told his family, "I want to be that." Now the leader of 675,000 Catholics in Milwaukee, Archbishop Listecki is juggling one of the largest church financial failures in America.

Tuesday's bankruptcy was fueled by the fear that at least 14 sex abuse cases have recently been reported to Milwaukee Catholic officials, and there may be more. That prompted victims' groups to say that the bankruptcy filing is aimed more at protecting secrets than assets.

"The aspect of that is not protecting any assets. We have been most open. If you go to our website you'll see exactly what the archdiocese had, what it's committed to, what it uses in terms of operating expenses. We disclose all of that in terms of our mediation process. So it's not about the assets. Some may argue about those assets, but we diligently and candidly placed all of that information before the attorneys representing the plaintiffs," Archbishop Listecki said.

Listecki's tenure was rocked on day one by criticism that former Milwaukee archbishop Rembrent Weakland attended his installation. Weakland once paid $450,000 in church funds as hush money to a former male lover.

In a statement Tuesday, Chicago Archbishop Cardinal Francis George told the I-Team that he hopes the Milwaukee bankruptcy will ensure fairness to victims while continuing church ministries. Cardinal George declined to compare the financial impact of clergy sex abuse on Chicago and Milwaukee. However, according church financial reports, Milwaukee has spent $29 million to deal with abuse cases. That's about $45 per parishioner. A much larger Chicago has spent $100 million, only slightly less per parishioner at $43.