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Mequon Council calls for Attorney General to intervene in Archdiocese bankruptcy

Church payouts could shift cemetery upkeep onto city budget otherwise

April 10, 2013

Mequon - Approximately $55 million set aside for the perpetual care of cemeteries by the Wisconsin Archdiocese may be used to pay the church's creditors as it goes through bankruptcy, which would shift the cost of maintaining those cemeteries onto local communities.

The Mequon Common Council on Tuesday passed a resolution urging Attorney General J.B. Van Hollen to intervene in the bankruptcy case because, if the Archdiocese's cemetery fund is used to pay creditors, the task and cost of maintaining Resurrection Cemetery would become the city's responsibility.

Resurrection Cemetery spans 215 acres at the corner of Swan and Donges Bay roads, containing two mausoleums, 2,800 graves, and more than 1,500 crypts and niches, according to the resolution. The resolution calls for Van Hollen to represent Mequon, among other Wisconsin communities, and protect the cemetery funding that the Committee of Unsecured Creditors in the case - which includes victims of sexual abuse who have won lawsuits against the church - has requested be used to pay claims.

"That has a couple of implications," Alderman John Wirth said. "That is 200 acres, in our city, near three or four subdivisions, which if it isn't cared for well would reflect badly and impact the property values of those subdivisions."

The aldermen on Tuesday said they empathize with the creditors, abuse victims included. Nevertheless, the cost of maintaining the cemetery would weigh heavy on an already tight city budget.

"Mequon does not believe that its taxpayers should be subsidizing those creditors by taking over responsibility for Resurrection Cemetery," the resolution reads, a later section adding, "Mequon (has) a direct interest in this matter and will suffer irreversible and permanent harm if the funds are determined to be available to pay the Archdiocese's creditors rather than for the perpetual care of cemeteries."

Wirth added that this case could also set precedent for a number of other religious institutions around the state and the cemeteries they care for.

"I think there's a real issue that the state should get involved in," Wirth said. "To date, the state has taken a hands-off approach, probably concerned by the politics of the situation, and I think we ought to ask the state to represent our interests."

The council approved the resolution unanimously.

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