A coalition of clergy abuse victims and clergy is asking Pope Francis to put $57 million into a potential settlement fund with Wisconsin victims.
Officials with the Milwaukee Archdiocese said the money is already set aside for use at cemeteries.
In 2007, then-Milwaukee archbishop Timothy Dolan got the Vatican’s approval to transfer $57 million of archdiocese money into a Catholic cemetery trust fund. During the now almost three-year-long archdiocese bankruptcy case, abuse victims have tried to reverse that transfer, but a federal district judge in Milwaukee has blocked the reversal.
The court's decision is being appealed, but a coalition of victims and clergy has also written the Vatican, asking that it put the $57 million back in the archdiocese's main fund.
Abuse victim Monica Barrett said the Vatican might not have been told the full story in 2007, and she said she remains hurt by Dolan’s move.
''One again this archdiocese has chosen something behind closed doors, that affects many, many people,” says Barrett.
Barrett said she only recently found out that the $57 million is just for eight cemeteries and seven mausoleums the archdiocese owns, and not for parish cemeteries in the 10-county archdiocese.
Archdiocese spokesman Jerry Topczewski said the number of cemeteries shouldn't be the question; the need for perpetual care is.
“When someone talks about how much will it take to fund something, the answer has to be, ‘Well, how long is forever?’” said Topczewski.
Topczewski said the $57 million came from crypt and cemetery plot sales and was always informally set aside.
The letter to the Vatican comes as abuse victims say the church and its insurance company is drafting a potential settlement plan for victims and other creditors and not allowing the victims any input. Church officials said the groups potentially owed money are being kept informed.