The Archdiocese of Milwaukee faces a $3 million deficit in its current budget and will need to make cuts in staff and services during the fiscal year starting July 1, in part because a deal to sell the Cousins Center fell through.
Money from that sale of the 44-acre site in suburban St. Francis was to have been used to pay off a loan the archdiocese incurred to cover about $4.6 million of its $8.25 million portion of a nearly $17 million settlement of 10 sexual abuse lawsuits in California in 2006.
Archbishop Timothy M. Dolanto priests, employees and volunteer leaders at parishes and schools this week to inform them court documents were being released in California on one clergy sexual abuse case, and sexual abuse lawsuits filed by seven people against the archdiocese were moving ahead in Milwaukee County courts as a result of a Wisconsin Supreme Court decision last year. If the archdiocese takes too hard a hit the end result could be bankruptcy.
I feel for Archbishop Dolan. He came into a messy situation and has worked nonstop to clean it up. To establish trust he opened up church financial records and has been an inexhaustible pitchman to support parishes and schools. If he wasn't a bishop, I suspect he'd been in huge demand as a public relations consultant.
But some messes don't clean up easily or well and this could be one of them. I have had my doubts about the wisdom of the archdiocesan capital campaign at a time when many parishes and parishioners are struggling to make ends meet. When one talks of stewardship, we must also remember that Dolan's predecessors may not have been good stewards of church resources by not intervening sooner and more effectively to stop clergy sexual abuse. The price for such inaction is being paid today and will be paid well into the future.