But files unearthed by Anderson in his litigation with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee do not include any response from Ratzinger to those lettersor proof that he even read them. The priest in question died in 1998 without being charged with a crime, despite reams of evidenceand even the admission of local Church officialsshowing him to be a serial abuser of children. (Gibney, who spoke with The Daily Beast last week about his documentary, notes in the film that Ratzinger did take steps to punish some abusers whom he felt had disgraced the priesthood, but faced entrenched Vatican interests that thwarted some of those efforts.)
Anderson, who currently represents about 350 plaintiffs pressing sex abuse claims against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, decries what he calls the "protracted process" the Vatican employs to avoid disclosing information about serial abusers to "police and parishioners." As part of that process, he says, the Church has tried to "stem the tide of disclosure" by having troubled U.S. dioceses file for bankruptcy.
Citing an inability to pay claims and legal bills stemming from mounting sex abuserelated liabilities, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee became the eighth U.S. diocese to file for bankruptcy in January 2011. At least a-half-dozen firms are advising the archdiocese in its ongoing Chapter 11 case, according to our previous reports. (Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the former head of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, took over the powerful Archdiocese of New York in February 2009.)
Bankruptcy court filings in Milwaukee show that Wisconsin firm Whyte Hirschboeck Dudek has billed the archdiocese for roughly $4.4 million in fees and expenses through its role as lead counsel to the debtor. Quarles & Bray, a Milwaukee-based Am Law 200 firm that is acting as special counsel to the archdiocese, has accrued $186,914 in fees for its work through October of last year.
Quarles & Bradywho The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reported in 2011 had become the "go-to firm" for dioceses seeking insolvency as a result of mounting sex abuserelated liabilitiesalso advised the Diocese of Tucson on its bankruptcy filing in 2004, the Diocese of San Diego on its Chapter 11 filing in 2007, and the Diocese of Fairbanks as it began reorganization proceedings in bankruptcy court in 2008.
Susan Boswell, chair of Quarles & Brady's national bankruptcy and business reorganization practice, was out of the office Monday and unavailable for immediate comment. She joined the firm in 2000 after it merged with her Phoenix-based regional firm Streich Lang.
"We frequently face off against large law firms that employ scorched-earth litigation tactics," says Anderson, noting that the hundreds of plaintiffs he represents across the country include 250 in Los Angeles, where the local archdiocese reached a $660 million settlement with more than 500 victims in 2007. (The deal yielded a 40 percent cut in attorney fees for about three dozen plaintiffs' firms, including Anderson's, according to a report at the time by sibling publication The National Law Journal.)
The Archdiocese of Los Angeles came under fire last week for releasing allegedly incomplete internal records on priests accused of sexually abusing children as part of that settlement. A lead lawyer for the archdiocese, McKool Smith partner J. Michael Hennigan, said publicly that the omissions were most likely the result of clerical errors rather than outright deception. (Hennigan merged his Los Angeles bankruptcy boutique with McKool Smith in 2011.)
Anderson says his hardest challenge in pressing his clients' claims is gaining access to Church records that are shielded by what he calls the Vatican's "protocol of secrecy." As a sovereign state, the Vatican has claimed it is protected from litigation filed in U.S. courts by the Foreign Sovereign Immunities Act.
For its part, despite all the Am Law 200 firepower available to defend it in the United States, the Vatican has turned to Berkeley, Californiabased solo practitioner Jeffrey Lena as its spokesman and official legal representative in this country, as noted by The Am Law Daily in 2010.