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Milwaukee Catholic Diocese releases priest abuse documents

July 1, 2013 at 3:16 PM

MILWAUKEE, July 1 (UPI) -- A Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee released documentation Monday related to its handling of a clergy child sex abuse scandal.

Attorneys representing scores of people who say they were sexually abused by priests and their welfare ignored by a religious order bent on preserving its reputation at children's expense cautioned the public "prepare to be shocked."

The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported the 6,000 pages of documents, released Monday afternoon, contain details on how bishops and others in charge of the diocese over the years, including Cardinal Timothy Dolan, now archbishop of New York City and previously head of the Milwaukee diocese, handled the allegations.

They said many of the documents will show decades of indifference to allegations of sexual impropriety by priests and a hierarchy that moved priests from one mission to another without warning parishioners or the police about a priest's history as a pedophile.

Some of the documents relate to two of the Catholic Church's most notorious sex abusers: the Rev. Lawrence Murphy, who is believed to have molested as many as 200 deaf boys during his decades at St. John School for the Deaf; and Sigfried Widera, who jumped from a hotel balcony in Mexico in 2003 as authorities closed in after charging him with 42 counts of child sex abuse in Wisconsin and California.

Dolan, who headed the diocese for six years, said he welcomed his deposition becoming public and said for more than a decade the Milwaukee diocese has been up front and transparent about the problem of priest sexual abuse.

"One of the principles that guided me during that time was the need for transparency and openness, which is why I not only welcomed the deposition as a chance to go on-the-record with how we responded to the clergy sexual abuse crisis during my years in Milwaukee, but also encouraged that it be released," Dolan said in a statement released by the New York archdiocese.

The Milwaukee diocese filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in January 2011, a form of bankruptcy protection that allows the debtor to negotiate settlements with creditors, in this case the sex abuse victims who have filed lawsuits, while still remaining financially viable as an organization.

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