The Archdiocese of Milwaukee filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection yesterday as a way of limiting its ultimate exposure to lawsuits related to the priest sexual abuse scandals from decades ago. That abuse of children by priests is a scandal is not debatable. However, in my view there are reasons why statutes of limitation exist in the law... as time passes, memories become malleable, facts and fiction merge, witnesses die, and the truth recedes into mist like a dream. Couple the effect of time on memory and the effect of money on motivations, and you have a toxic stew. These are cases that should not have been brought, cases that were originally dismissed, and cases that Wisconsin's Courts of Appeal and Supreme Court ought to have thrown out. Now, those bad legal judgments, swayed by the pressure of public outrage and the afternoon TV shock value of the claims, have caused a church that serves hundreds of thousands of Catholics in this area to go bankrupt. It's so very sad.
There are thousands upon thousands of priests in America who serve Christ with grace, self-sacrifice, courage, honesty and decency. The percentage of sexual abusers in the priesthood, I am confident, is lower than in other professions. For these good priests, the scandalous behavior of a very few is another Cross to bear. They need our prayers and our support.