Cardinal Timothy F. Dolan is challenging claims that during his time as archbishop of Milwaukee he moved close to $57 million in church funds to protect the archdioscese from clergy sexual abuse victims who were asking to be compensated.
In a statement released Monday, Dolan -- who is now the cardinal archbishop of New York, the preeminent post in the U.S. church -- has denied attempting to keep the funds from sexual abuse victims. This follows the release of files by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee which show that he asked the Vatican for permission to move the more than $57 million into a cemetery trust fund reports, the New York Times.
The communications office of the Archdiocese of New York stated Monday:
“Unfortunately, we have already seen how the release of these documents will cause some to raise old and discredited attacks — like priest-abusers having been ‘paid’ to apply for laicization, (like it or not, bishops do have a canon law obligation to provide basic support like health care and room and board for their priests until they have finally moved on) or that establishing a perpetual care fund from money belonging to cemeteries and designated for that purpose — as required by state law and mandated by the archdiocesan finance council — was an attempt to shield it from the bankruptcy proceedings. While certain groups can be counted upon to take certain statements and events out of context, the documents released show plainly that the bishops have been faithful to the promises made over a decade ago: permanent removal from ministry of any priest who abused a minor; complete cooperation with law enforcement officials; and strict, child-safety requirements.”
Among more than 6,000 pages of documents reported by the Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, a letter from 2007 was included in which Dolan wrote to the Vatican, telling them that if the assets were moved, he could see "an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.”
In five weeks, the request was approved by the Vatican, the files show. At the time, the church was facing hundreds of child molestation lawsuits.
According to New York TV station PIX 11, the release of the documents was part of a deal that a federal court reached with the attorneys for the 570 people who currently have lawsuits pending against the Milwaukee Archdiocese.
The Vatican placed Dolan in Milwaukee in 2002 in order to help restructure the archdiocese there after it was rocked with reports of sexual abuse incidents.
A transcript from a videotaped deposition with Dolan was also released. The 141-page transcript documented his conversation with victims' lawyers that was recorded at the New York Catholic Center on Feb. 20, 2013.
When asked during the deposition if priests received payments of $20,000 after they left following abuse claims, he acknowledged that it did occur.
“I would not call that a practice. I would not deny that that was done on occasion, but I would not call that a payoff or a settlement. But I would not deny that that was done, the fact that you mentioned. Was it a payoff, was it a settlement, was it an impetus, I wouldn’t say that, nor would I saw was it a normal practice, but it was done.”
The documents released on Monday contain very graphic details about the extent of the priests' actions, with the current archbishop of Milwaukee, Jerome Listecki, writing in a blog that parishioners should "prepare to be shocked."
Treye Green is a reporter for The International Business Times and a recent graduate of the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. Green has shot, edited and...