Mediation talks break down between Archdiocese, victims of priest sex abuse

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MILWAUKEE -- A break down in talks between Milwaukee's Archdiocese and victims of sex abuse by priests means they're all headed back to court -- as the Archdiocese approaches its second year of bankruptcy.

The church and its 575 victims have been in court-ordered mediation since July, trying to hammer out what one judge called "astronomical costs."

An advocacy group for those abused by priests says the Archdiocese has refused to accept responsibility.

"This is a really sad day for victims and their families. What this is about -- and what it's been about since they day they filed bankruptcy -- is secrets," John Pilmeier with Survivors Network for Those Abused by Priests said.

Milwaukee's Archdiocese released a statement saying, in part: "Although a resolution could not be reached at this time, we remain hopeful a consensual resolution will ultimately be reached."

The Archdiocese had filed for bankruptcy protection -- saying it was the only way to settle with victims while continuing its ministry. So far, the Archdiocese has spent more than $7 million in legal fees -- costs that will continue to grow.

Marquette Law Professor Ralph Anzivino says it's now up to a judge to settle the dispute.

"I think it would probably be a year to 18 months more -- would be a best guestimate. 575 people is a lot of people to have claims. The question is, how many assets will be available to be allocated toward those 575 claimants?" Anzivino said.

The victims' attorney now intends to review millions of dollars the Archdiocese transferred into trusts before its bankruptcy and will push for the release of documents.

"There's currently 60,000 pages of documents sitting in the bankruptcy court.  We think those documents should be publically out there," Pilmeier said.

The Archdiocese says it has agreed mediation talks would be confidential and any comments on the specifics of those talks would violate that agreement.