The Milwaukee archdiocese released over 6,000 pages of documents detailing sex abuse allegations involving priests as well as correspondences between New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan and the Vatican. Dolan served as the Milwaukee archdiocese’s leader from June 2002 until February 2009.
According to the Associated Press, the 6,000 pages of documents released by the Milwaukee archdiocese include profiles and records of 42 priests with substantiated allegations of sex abuse. The documents include correspondences between Dolan and the Vatican detailing the problems in Milwaukee and discussing ways to handle the allegations and the priests named in these allegations.
Many of the priests were not discharged immediately after reports of alleged sex abuse were substantiated with the Milwaukee archdiocese opting to send these priests to treatment and different parishes, notes AP. After these different attempts failed the church eventually removed these priests from service.
The archive of documents was released by the Milwaukee archdiocese as part of an agreement with abuse victims who filed suit against the church, notes AP. The churched filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in 2011 after it could not reach a settlement with the victims of sexual abuse. The archdiocese was initially hesitant t to release the documents because it may compromise the privacy of those involved in the allegations, be it the victims, the people reporting the abuse or the church officials handling the claims.
The victims, on the other hand, claim the documents are just a small portion, 10 percent, that was given to their attorneys during the trial. Those documents are under a court seal but the victims want them to become public as they detail allegations against other member in the church including teachers and archdiocese officials, reports AP.
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Dolan’s handling of sex abuse allegations has been questioned with some reporting he transferred money and church funds to protect problem priests although he has denied those claims. In another incident, Dolan, then serving as archbishop of Milwaukee, tried to have Daniel Budzynski removed from the priesthood following substantiated allegations of sex abuse. According to AP, Dolan’s predecessors were lax in their handling of the allegations but Dolan acted quickly, even going so far as to pay priests to immediately leave the priesthood. The documents also revealed the difficulty in removing problem priests as delayed action by the Vatican would result in problem priests staying in the church for years.
In a correspondence with Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, the future Pope Benedict XVI who was then serving as the Vatican official in charge of sex abuse allegations, Dolan states, “Our new found awareness of the severity of damage caused by sexual abuse at the hands of clergy makes it impossible for us to ignore this situation.” Despite Dolan’s efforts, Budzynski remained in the priesthood and, after a stint in treatment, but, despite his reduced role in the church, the sex abuse allegations continued. Budzynski was later removed from the priesthood by Ratzinger a year after Dolan’s initial correspondence.