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Clergy Abuse Fraud Claims Revived by Wisconsin Supreme Court

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Victims of clergy abuse granted opportunity to hold Catholic Church accountable.

In what was a historic decision, the Wisconsin Supreme Court ordered the revival of lawsuits claiming fraud against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in various alleged incidents of molestations by priests.

According to a news report by the Associated Press, the court closed the door on negligence suits filed by abuse victims against the diocese because the three-year statute of limitations had expired. But the state high court, in a surprise move and a 5-2 decision, reinstated the victims’ claims of fraud and ordered further proceedings to determine if the six-year limit for such claims had expired.

Victim advocates welcomed the court’s unprecedented decision saying it will give victims of such abuse an opportunity to seek justice against Wisconsin church officials who knowingly covered up abuse for many years. Peter Isely, director of Survivor’s Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP),was quoted in the article stating the monumental decision allows victims to hold perpetrators accountable for their actions.

“There was an intentional policy to misrepresent, deceive and lie to every citizen in this state as bishops systematically transferred known child rapists through virtually every community in Wisconsin,” he told the news agency.

In the case that came before the court, three victims alleged they were molested by priest Siegfried Widera between 1973 and 1976 and a fourth victim accused Franklyn Becker of abusing him when he was an altar boy. The victims say the diocese committed fraud when it falsely stated that both these priests were not a danger to children and had no history of molesting children although church officials knew that wasn’t true. On the other hand the diocese simply sent these priests here to California, where they abused more boys!

The court determined that the key issue in these fraud allegations would be when the victims discovered the fraud. But attorneys who represent the victims have mixed feelings and say while the court’s decision is to be welcomed, it is easier to prove negligence than fraud. Also, a number of other victims who were also hurt by the priests won’t be able to sue. A spokeswoman for the diocese says they “apologize” to all the victims and their families.

Well, sorry doesn’t cut it anymore. This is a body of religious, Godly priests and bishops, who lied to members of their own congregation and protected dangerous predators who used their parishioners to satisfy their sexual urges. There are so many things grievously wrong about this picture.

Rather than an “apology” how about doing the right thing? How about compensating the known victims of know predators as a manner of penance, even if their time to sue has passed? What penance would this religious order have advocated if one of their parishioners was sexually abused by a non-Catholic? Will God not judge this organization and the men in it for what they did and the harm caused (as the Catholic Church preaches) or will God say, “…since the statute of limitations has passed…”, there will be no consequences? This apology is too weak, too late and does absolutely nothing to assuage the victims’ grief or right the wrong.

We are increasingly finding that it’s not just the Catholic Church that’s guilty of these despicable crimes and lies. Slowly but surely, scandals are surfacing from the Baptist, Methodist and even Jewish congregations. Occurrence of clergy abuse is deeply disturbing, yet widely prevalent. If you or a loved one has been abused by a member of clergy, contact us for a free and completely confidential consultation. Although it may be hard to come forward, it’s the only way I know of to stop these predators from abusing other innocent children and adults and to stop religious orders from covering up what they know. John Bisnar of Bisnar Chase Personal Injury Attorneys – 800-259-6373.

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