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Catholic Church's legal issues in Wisconsin get thrust onto national stage

Published: Monday, July 6 2015 8:04 a.m. MDT

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, speaks in his first appearance in the state since a document release shed new light on the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's handling of clergy abuse cases during a period that included Dolan's leadership, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013, in Milwaukee. (Morry Gash, Associated Press) Cardinal Timothy Dolan, speaks in his first appearance in the state since a document release shed new light on the Archdiocese of Milwaukee's handling of clergy abuse cases during a period that included Dolan's leadership, Thursday, Sept. 5, 2013, in Milwaukee. (Morry Gash, Associated Press)

Controversy ensued this week after the New York Times published an article in its Wednesday edition highlighting legal arguments that could undermine the Roman Catholic Church’s strategy for protecting a $53 million cemetery trust fund from creditors.

“A federal judge who ruled in favor of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee in bankruptcy proceedings, and against sexual abuse victims and other creditors, is being asked by the creditors to recuse himself because they say he has a conflict of interest,” Laurie Goodstein reported for the Times. “… The archdiocese draws on the trust fund to maintain its cemeteries, where about 500,000 people are buried, but it is one of the last large assets available to the survivors of sexual abuse by clergy members in Milwaukee. The archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in 2011 after hundreds of people filed suit.”

The Times article appeared 20 days after Judge Rudolph T. Randa was asked to recuse himself, mainly because his parents and his wife’s parents are among the deceased who are buried in the Milwaukee Catholic Cemeteries. Between Aug. 14 and the day Goodstein’s piece was published, not even the Pulitzer Prize-winning Milwaukee Journal Sentinel had written anything new about the case.

Against that backdrop, the staunchly conservative National Review accused the Times of reopening its perceived longstanding vendetta against Cardinal Timothy Dolan, who now leads the Archdiocese of New York — but who headed the Archdiocese of Milwaukee when the cemetery trust fund was established in 2007.

“This comes after a longtime New York Times campaign to cast a shadow over Dolan,” Kathryn Jean Lopez wrote Wednesday for the National Review. “The Times has repeatedly claimed that he did something shady, at best, when overseeing the archdiocese of Milwaukee.”

A Google search for articles about the Archdiocese of Milwaukee’s bankruptcy proceedings revealed that, prior to this week’s New York Times and National Review articles, recent coverage of the case had eluded the national media and remained largely under the purview of the Journal Sentinel and Catholic-centric blogs.

Email: jaskar@desnews.com

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