15 Nov 2010

Wisconsin considers law to remove age limit for child sex abuse suits, Milwaukee Archbishop objects

FOX Now 6 - Milwaukee, WI January 12, 2010

Lawmakers consider bill allowing child abuse victims to sue after age 35

Myra Sanchick | FOX 6 Reporter

WITI-TV, MILWAUKEE - Milwaukee's new Archbishop Jerome Listecki speaks out against a bill allowing more victims of child sex abuse to sue. Listecki takes some hard questions about the actions of a former Archbishop.

Archbishop Jerome Listecki told lawmakers the proposed bill, could bankrupt a diocese. He says, "Bankruptcy will matter to the homeless families in Green Bay, where the diocese saved a shelter that was about to close. It will matter to children in the central city schools who rely on food pantries."

Past settlements have been costly to the Catholic Archdiocese. One lawmaker Glen Grothman questioned Listecki about a past Archbishop.

Grothman: Do you feel the Milwaukee Arch diocese under the time of Rembert Weakland was seriously flawed, horribly flawed in this regard?

Listecki: I think his tenure was flawed.

Under current law child sex abuse victims have until the the time they turn 35 to file a civil suit. The proposed law would not have a limit.

Victims told lawmakers stories of how they were abused by Father Murphy, who was at St. John's School for the Deaf in St. Francis during the 1950's and 1960's. Child abuse victim Frank Fanara said, "At night it was like he turned into the devil and would abuse everybody and in the morning he would preach at us at mass and talk about God and forgiving." Another victim Steven Geier said, "I was trying to say no. I didn't want him to do what he was doing to me, but he forced me. He force raped me."

Father Murphy has since passed away, but these victims say they are still suffering. Milwaukee's Archbishop Listecki watched and listened to them all.

If Senate Bill 319 becomes law, it would not affect criminal charging of perpetrators. The Judiciary Committee of the Legislature still has to decide if the proposal will get to a full vote.

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