Priest 'Concerned' About $450,000 in Back Pay From Milwaukee Archdiocese

The Wall Street Journal/January 20, 2011

A Catholic priest accused of sexual abuse recently told a bankruptcy judge that he's "concerned" about the failure of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee to fulfill its legal and financial responsibilities to him, including turning over the approximately $450,000 he says he's owed.

In a letter filed to the archdiocese's bankruptcy-court docket this week, the Rev. Marvin T. Knighton, 60, said he's "gone into tremendous debt due to the mishandling of my case by the archdiocese." Knighton said he was acquitted of sexual-abuse allegations in 2003 after a criminal trial but continues a nine-year fight to be reinstated as a priest in good standing in the southeastern Wisconsin archdiocese.

Knighton, who now lives in Phoenix, was ordained as a Roman Catholic priest in 1975 and went on to teach at Catholic and public high schools in the Milwaukee area. According to the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Knighton's acquittal came on charges that he abused a boy in the late 1980s. The archdiocese has received notice of at least one other allegation of abuse against Knighton.

He remains on the archdiocese's list of restricted priests who face "substantiated reports" that the priests sexually abused minors. The restriction prevents the listed priests from publicly celebrating the sacraments and from presenting themselves as priests "in any way."

Along with his letter to the bankruptcy judge, Knighton attached a recent letter to Milwaukee Archbishop Jerome Listecki. In the letter, Knighton protests the archdiocese's decision to stop providing him with such benefits as housing payments and pension contributions.

"I cannot begin to tell you how upsetting that was to receive such a letter due to the fact my case remains in judicial process," Knighton wrote before urging the archbishop to reinstitute his housing and pension payments going forward and to cover $3,855 in recent living expenses.

Listecki's chief of staff told the Journal Sentinel that the archdiocese has no plans to reimburse him. He also denied that the archdiocese mishandled Knighton's case.

"The case has followed canonical procedures and is pending," he told the newspaper.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee sought Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection on Jan. 4, several weeks after talks with abuse victims failed to result in a settlement of pending litigation.

Milwaukee is one of several dioceses that have turned to bankruptcy to deal with the avalanche of lawsuits filed by clergy sexual abuse victims - so have the dioceses of Wilmington, Del., and Portland, Ore., among others.

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