Catholic Church at crossroads in Milwaukee over abuse charges
Stung by fresh charges of priestly sexual abuse and allegations of a cover-up that reach the Vatican, the Roman Catholic Church in the United States faces a crisis of empty pews and empty coffers.
Attendance was down noticeably at some Easter Sunday services in Milwaukee, reflecting the litany of troubles facing the U.S. Church and a torrent of criticism over its handling of abuse cases.
“The Church is at a crossroads,” said Tim Flanner, 51, a member of St. John Vianney church. “There are people who are really ticked off, and there are a lot of them. The Church needs to address its own failures, acknowledge its own guilt, and ask for forgiveness, and heal as a family.”
Last month, amid explosive charges that a now-dead priest molested some 200 boys at a school for the deaf over more than two decades, Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki apologized to the victims and acknowledged the Church was wrong to not defrock the priest, Rev. Lawrence Murphy.
But beyond the church’s tarnished reputation, the financial fallout from paying settlement claims to victims is being felt in Milwaukee and dioceses across the United States. Four lawsuits are pending in Milwaukee, and the diocese has put its headquarters, the Cousins Center, up for sale to help pay $27 million in settlement costs that have threatened to bankrupt the diocese.