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    Saturday, July 08, 2006

    2 priests in California sink Milwaukee


    The Archdiocese of Milwaukee is going ahead with plans to sell the Cousins Center in St. Francis and has launched a major communications effort, partly to prepare its 700,000 Catholics for what might be "staggering financial consequences" as 10 lawsuits filed against it by victims of clergy sexual abuse move toward trials in California.

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    Katherine Freberg, an attorney representing eight of the victims, said Thursday that the archdiocese has expressed interest in seeking settlements while also indicating "there's a possibility they will file for bankruptcy."

    "When we hear that from a defendant, we are very suspicious that a mediation would not be very fruitful," added Freberg, who noted that average settlements of clergy sexual abuse lawsuits in California "certainly are over $1 million."

    Dolan said Thursday in his column and in an e-mail to priests and parish leaders that the first of 10 cases of abuse allegedly committed more than 30 years ago in California by two former Archdiocese of Milwaukee priests has been scheduled for trial Nov. 6.

    In response, he says, he is following up on a promise to be upfront. That included taking the unusual step of mailing Thursday's Catholic Herald, which included a variety of information on the archdiocese's response to the sexual abuse crisis, to all 200,000 households of registered Catholics in the 10-county archdiocese.

    Noting in his Herald of Hope column that "we sure need a lot of HOPE right now," Dolan tells people to expect more secular news coverage of a settlement and trial process that will have harmful effects. He cites "the valuable work and ministries of the archdiocese, which could be seriously curtailed if the resolution of these cases results in staggering financial consequences against us. What adds to the sadness of all this is that we had been making some steady progress."

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