A portion of the proceeds from this article will be donated to SNAP-the Survivor’s Network of Those Abused by Priests. Please share this article on your social networks.
Breaking news out of Milwaukee today as thousands of pages of documents have been released from the Catholic Archdiocese there. The papers show that Archbishop Timothy Dolan bribed priests to keep them quiet about the child sex abuse scandal, purposely shuttled nearly 57 million dollars out of the Milwaukee Archdiocese before it declared bankruptcy in an attempt to avoid paying settlements to victims, and was far more concerned with accused priests’ well-being and comfort than with the victims themselves. The papers, published on the Archdiocese website as well as on the website of victims’ lawyers, detail depositions, personnel files and court papers in relation to 42 separate child sexual abuse cases.
In preparation of the publication of the documents, Archbishop Jerome E. Listecki of Milwaukee wrote a letter to his congregation, attempting to explain how the church has had to undergo an “arc of understanding” to comprehend the fact that molesting children is a criminal act. In one paragraph, he says “The arc of understanding sexual abuse of a minor progressed from being seen as a moral failing and sin that needed personal resolve and spiritual direction; to a psychological deficiency that required therapy and could be cured; to issues of addiction requiring more extensive therapy and restrictions on ministry; to recognition of the long-term effects of abuse and the need to hold the perpetrator accountable for this criminal activity.”
While most would say that sexual abuse of a minor would automatically be considered a criminal act for which the perpetrator should be held accountable, the church seems to have taken nearly 80 years coming to that conclusion. Owning up to the mistakes, Listecki said, took a long time because the church only realized that having sex with children was wrong when they looked back upon their actions. “Acknowledging our past… includes facing up to mistakes that were made, even if some of those mistakes become apparent only in hindsight” he writes.
Whereas the vast majority of the population does not feel that child molestation is difficult to equate with criminality, Archbishop Listecki seems to feel otherwise. In his letter he reflects back on how some of the documents show that parents didn’t want the police to be involved, and that some of them were more concerned for “Father” than for their own children. He goes on to say “I do not offer this as an excuse, but rather, as examples of the complexity of the topic and the context in which decisions were made.”
Contrary to what Archbishop Listecki states, most would say that handling child molestation is not complex. It’s actually very simple. The majority of first responders would probably pick up the phone and dial 911. But the responders were “ill-equipped” and “didn’t understand” he says. He tells his congregation to “prepare to be shocked” about the documents that were to be published.
Indeed, the papers are shocking. We will spare our readers the details of the horrible accounts of child molestation committed by the same priests who were supposed to be moral guides for their young charges. The details are too disgusting and disturbing to be repeated. Instead, we’ll focus on the atrocities committed by the more powerful among the church, including Archbishop Dolan.
The fact that Archbishop Dolan paid priests accused of molestation $20,000 each became news last year, but the documents released today paint an even more shocking picture of Dolan’s role in covering up the scandal. Dolan’s deposition reveals that the payouts were a bribe designed to force the priests to be defrocked and “leave quietly.” In exchange for the payout, the priests agreed not to sue the Catholic Church. Dolan had been paying this hush money since 2003, but publically denied that the payouts were orchestrated to force the priests to leave without protest. The records show, however, that the purpose of the cash settlement was to sweep the problems under the carpet and to save the church money in handling the issue. Bribing the priests to go away quietly also assisted them in avoiding prosecution and spared the church additional legal expenses.
Dolan said he was concerned about the priests having medical insurance, and admitted that paying the priests off to accept being defrocked was a common practice. “…helping a man get medical insurance or to transition out of the priesthood, which we were eager to have done and there was a precedent for it… (it was a) practice that it was done sometimes, yes,” he stated during his deposition.
Further, it appears that Dolan had only money on his mind when he purposely shuttled nearly 57 million dollars out of the diocese coffers and off of the official records before the Milwaukee Archdiocese went “bankrupt,” ensuring that the funds would not be available to the victims as settlements for their suffering.
“By transferring these assets to the Trust, I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability,” he wrote in a letter to the Vatican. “A careful analysis by experts has concluded that the funds currently held…are sufficient for the long-term use by the Catholic cemeteries. The value of the funds to be transferred was $56,943,983.35 as of December 31, 2006.”
According to the documents, during his deposition, Dolan also said he “couldn’t recall the reason” why the accused priests’ history had not previously been made public, but a letter from the Milwaukee Archdiocese clearly states that one of the reasons for that decision was “some of the alleged abusers have threatened suits against us…” In fact, the deposition is frequently peppered with many statements like “I don’t know” and “I don’t remember” in places where Dolan was asked about removing priest’s names from lists of alleged abusers and when asked if he had the power to remove those priests from service.
One of the documents reveals that the eventual release of priests’ names actually had an apology to the priests in it which was later removed because the Archdiocese was informed that the statement should be about the victims’ suffering and not the emotional welfare of the accused priests. Archbishop Listecki wrote that he was “open to reinserting that line,” meaning he was open to putting the apology to the priests back into the statement. He called the removal of that line of apology a “minor language change.”
It is clear from the documents that concern for the priests, and not the victims, was at the forefront of Dolan’s mind when dealing with the scandal. “I was very concerned about them, the morale of the priests, their take on situations,” he said during the deposition.
At one point during his deposition, he was asked if he implemented background checks on priests for the purpose of protecting children and he answered “I hope so.” He also details in many letters to the Vatican how his diocese had made efforts to “provide…intervention…to rehabilitate” the accused priests. During all of those years, the priests were free to have contact with minors and victimize a larger number of children.
The documents reveal, in stunning clarity, how Archbishop Dolan considered priests’ concerns and the financial concerns of the Milwaukee Diocese first and foremost, while at the same time, he viewed the suffering of the victims as an inconvenience. By shuttling over 57 million dollars away from potential settlements for sex abuse victims, Dolan made it clear that his real concern was accused priests’ comfort and the financial health of the church, and that the victims were nothing more than a legal nuisance.
By: Rebecca Savastio
Source: Archdiocese of Milwaukee
Source: CBS News
Source: Anderson Advocates