"What this was, instead, was an act of charity, in line with Catholic social teaching."
- response from Cardinal Timothy Dolan
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York authorized payments of as much as $20,000 to sexually abusive priests as an incentive for them to agree to dismissal from the priesthood when he was the archbishop of Milwaukee.
Not to be outdone by the Vatican when it comes to financial scandals, Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York continues to battle accusations of corruption when he was Archbishop of Milwaukee. Back in 2008, Dolan was accused of shifting over $55 million from the archdiocese' cemetary assets to reduce settlements involved in clergy sex abuse cases. This transfer of funds has left the archdiocese bankrupt. Now documents from that bankruptcy and its proceedings have surfaced showing that priests accused of abuse were given money if they agreed to go quietly into that good night, leaving the priesthood voluntarily, and leaving the number of defrocked priests at a minimum. It was clearly a "pay away the lay" situation brought to light, but Dolan is calling the stipends "charity."
A Splendid Job - Of Doing What?
Since the New York Times Article, Dolan has had to delineate what "charity" was as opposed to "payoffs" but when asked if there were similar acts of "charity" given to former priests in the 400-parish area of Manhatten, the Bronx, Staten Island and seven counties, his response was only "No, thank God. Cardinal Egan did a splendid job -- that's all taken care of." Unfortunately there are serious gaps in this statement and they are:
1. Didn't the former priests of New York need the same amount of "charity"?
2. What exactly was the "splendid job"?
3. Exactly what was taken care of?
Enter SNAP, Exit "VICTIMS"
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests is the organization that ferreted out the (now) infamous memo, part of which is printed below. Dolan's response to SNAP's allegations was not surprising:
"SNAP has no credibility whatsoever," Dolan said. "To respond to charges like that that are groundless and scurrilous in my book is useless and counterproductive."
The document - Archdiocese of Milwaukee Financial Council Meeting Minutes of March 7 2003 Meeting - shows that Dolan was present and that the situation of payment to accused priests - referred to ironically as "victims" was proposed. Note that this was also BEFORE the transfer of funds from the cemetery assets. The section on "Pastoral Mediation" addressed "care" for the victims:
We provide care/therapy even if the statute of limitations has passed and the victims are unable to take legal action. Restorative justice makes reparations for lost jobs, education, etc. due to the depression and other psychological effects of abuse.
The damning section of the memo comes a bit later:
Pastoral mediation has been in place for many years now, however it has not had a formal edict. The maximum settlement amount is $30,000 per victim. This amount is a goal and is not concrete.
The Finance Council believes this is a step in the right direction. There could be hundred of legitimate victims asking for $30,000 each. Since this cannot be taken from CSA, how would this be funded? If the costs become too great, they would have to be borrowed. A loan would be internal and probably would come from the Income Care Fund. It would be hoped that some funding would come from the insurance and would help repay the loan. The worst-case scenario would force the Archdiocese to liquidate property. If Wisconsin takes the same approach as California and offers a one-year reprieve on the statute of limitations, then more drastic action would need to be taken. This could result in program cuts, seminary cuts, etc.
Currently, we are working on setting up a Trust Fund to shelter the Parish Deposit Fund.
A full PDF of the document can be downloaded HERE.
Perhaps the most perfidious stance to come out in this scandal is the abusive priests being referred to as "victims": the protection of abusers extends far beyond any credibility the cardinal and his staff might engender. In no other circles have child molesters ever been considered victims. The Church's tight coterie of clergy is indeed the exception.
And although the pensioning off of abusive ex-priests has been in the news for a long time, this time, a cardinal, a prelate of the Roman Catholic Church is forced to be on trial in the court of public opinion. Coupled with the Vatican's latest "Vatileaks" financial scandals, it looks like Dolan will be under scrutiny for additional cover-ups: transferal of massive funds causing the bankruptcy of a large archdiocese, denial of child abuse, payoffs to pedophile priests, all have a tendency to put the cardinal under suspicion for any other financial improprieties that may come along.
Ironically, Pope Benedict appointed him. Like Papa, like cardinal.