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Archdiocese says bankruptcy 'dire situation' but 'Church isn't going out of business'

CREATED Jan 25, 2013

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MILWAUKEE - The chief of staff of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee says bankruptcy proceedings are putting Milwaukee's Catholic Church in a 'dire situation.'

However, Jerry Topczewski told Newsradio 620 WTMJ's "Wisconsin's Morning News" that "The Church isn't going out of business by any means."

The Journal Sentinel reports that the Archdiocese filed court documents showing that it's losing so much money on legal fees that, under current legal demands, it will no longer be able to pay its regular operational expenses after Easter Sunday.

It's asking Federal Judge Susan Kelley to let them stop making payments to lawyers except for reorganization.

"It's a dire situation in the sense that the Archdiocese does not have a lot of resources.  A lot of people think the Church is rich.  Financially, the Archdiocese runs on a very small, balanced budget," explained Topczewski.

"The Archdiocese has expenses.  Those moneys have been eaten up by attorneys as we try to move through this bankruptcy in a responsible way."

He also detailed how money parishioners donated in offerings during Mass and other appeals would not go to pay lawyers.

"We've been very good caretakers of their money.  When they contribute, money (isn't) used for attorneys, for court fees.  Those monies go for service.  They know their money is going to help people."

But will the Archdiocese be around to help people after the bankruptcy proceedings are done?

Topczewski claimed that no matter what happens in court, the nature and specifics of this Chapter 11 bankruptcy case will allow the Archdiocese to remain in operation.

"This has always been a chapter 11," said Topczewski. 

"The goal of Chapter 11 is to reorganize, versus, say, Golden Guernsey.  They're a Chapter 7.  They're going out of business.  The Church isn't going out of business by any means."

He also says that individual parishes are separated from the bankruptcy case.

"Our parishes are separate and independent from the diocese.  They operate independently.  They have their own finances."

Topczewski also believes Judge Kelley will understand the Archdiocese's situation when she discerns her decision.

"I think the judge will understand.  She deals with this on a day in, day out basis.  I think she will be very understanding of the demands on operations."