On Tuesday, August 4th, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee agreed to a $21 million dollar settlement to compensate hundreds of victims of clergy sexual abuse. This case involved over 575 individual claims of abuse against church leaders in the Milwaukee Archdiocese, many of whom alleged that a systemic lack of prosecution allowed church leaders to abuse minors in their care for years without legal consequences.
The first abuse allegations against the Milwaukee Archdiocese began all the way back in 1973, and centered on pastor Lawrence Murphy. Murphy ran the St. John’s School for the Deaf in St. Francis, WI starting in 1963, until his resignation in 1974. During his tenure as the schools headmaster, he was accused of molesting as many as 200 young boys in his care.
The abuse was first reported to Milwaukee Police in 1973, but no charges were ever filed. Murphy died in 1998, and tragically avoided any punishment for his despicable crimes against the children he had promised to look after and protect.
In order to compensate the hundreds of victims in the settlement agreement announced on Tuesday, the Archdiocese was forced to file for Chapter 11 bankruptcy. The Milwaukee Archdiocese is now the 12th Roman Catholic Archdiocese to file for bankruptcy in the U.S in the last decade due to a flood of child abuse allegations. The fact that 12 separate Archdiocese have faced this type of major legal action related to child sexual abuse claims in the last decade alone illustrates how widespread and disturbingly common these types of crimes are in the United States.
While the $21 million settlement may seem like a victory for victims of the church’s sexual abuse, many victims’ rights advocates feel that this agreement did not go far enough in terms of providing proper compensation for those that were abused as children. Attorneys and advocates for the victims claim that the church and their lawyers treated victims with harsh, hardball-style legal tactics in an attempt to avoid responsibility for their crimes.
Additionally, the director of the Midwest chapter of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) stated that this settlement “is exponentially the lowest bankruptcy compensation for victims in the United States.”
No amount of money can provide relief or escape from the pain and hardship of being victimized by a clergy member or authority figure. However, if you or a loved one has been a victim of child sexual abuse, at church, at school, or while in the care of any other organization, you will need an experienced Child Sexual Abuse lawyer by your side to advocate for your rights.
At Nix, Patterson & Roach, we work closely with victims of clergy and school sexual abuse, to seek the justice they deserve. Our goal is to help our clients get the support and the legal guidance necessary to pursue these extremely delicate cases.
We provide support for victims of abuse, and will always handle your case with the utmost discretion, compassion and dedication.