Tuesday, July 2, 2013

Milwaukee Archdiocese Opens Abuse Files: Letter from Dolan Speaks of "Improved Protection" of Diocesan Funds as Survivors Come Forward

Yesterday, the archdiocese of Milwaukee, previously headed by the current president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops Cardinal Timothy Dolan, released a trove of documents having to do with how the archdiocese has handled (and covered up) cases of sexual abuse of minors. The story is told by Laurie Goodstein for New York TimesMarie Rohde (and also here) in National Catholic ReporterKaren Herzog for the Journal-Sentinel (Milwaukee), and by M.L. Johnson in the Star Tribune (Minneapolis/Milwaukee).

On behalf of the National Survivor Advocates Coalition, Kris Ward writes:

Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s letter to the Vatican asking permission to transfer $57 million from the cemetery fund to a trust fund as the archdiocese moved toward filing for bankruptcy included the then Archbishop Dolan persuasive phrase for his request, "By transferring these assets to the Trust, I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability." Within a month the Vatican agreed. 
As late into the crisis as 2007 when the letter was written Dolan assumed the letter would never be read beyond the chancery building and the stone castle walls of the Vatican.

And then she concludes:

Improved protection. That’s got some ring to it.

For Bishop Accountability, Terence McKiernan states:

The documents provide additional evidence that, contrary to Cardinal Dolan’s repeated denials, he concluded settlements with numerous offending priests, paying them bounties if they would agree to request laicization for sexually abusing children. The archive also contains an important 2007 exchange of letters between Dolan and the Vatican on the eve of the bankruptcy filing, in which Dolan asked permission to shelter $56.9 million, envisioning "an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability." The revelations about these actions, and Dolan’s denials, raise the question whether he is fit to lead the USCCB and the Archdiocese of New York. Documents also demonstrate that requests for laicization, which had been handled slowly by Cardinal Josef Ratzinger, continued to be processed at a snail’s pace, and that children continued to be endangered thereby, after Ratzinger became Pope Benedict XVI.

At the SNAP Wisconsin website, Peter Isely says:

For any CEO or Fiscal Director that transfers money out of a corporation, knowing they will likely file for bankruptcy protection, and then claims it cannot pay its debts—and let’s remember in this case, most of the "creditors" are child sex abuse victims—it is a crime called "Fraudulent Conveyance" punishable by fines, prison time or both. 
In February, 2011 when evidence about the existence of the Trust surfaced, Dolan called any assertion about hiding money "malarkey, ridiculous and groundless gossip."
This is virtually the same response Dolan gave when he was caught lying about paying out predator priests with archdiocesan assets to quietly leave the priesthood and settle in unsuspecting communities.  In 2007, he called such a charge "completely false, preposterous and unjust." But documents in court last year showed that is exactly what he did.   And with today’s new document release, even more secret payouts are detailed. 
Today’s release of thousands of pages of documentation prove the systematic, wide spread and continuing pattern of deceit, cover up and fraud by Dolan, his successor Jerome Listecki and both of their predecessor, Rembert Weakland. 
The time for a federal investigation is now long overdue.

These are statements anyone concerned about the present state of American Catholicism and its threatened future would be do well to pay careful attention to. To repeat: Cardinal Dolan now leads the U.S. Catholic bishops. In an archdiocese in which some 200 boys at a deaf school were sexually abused over a period of years by one single Catholic priest--abuse known to the archdiocesan leaders as it continued--the former head of the archdiocese, who now leads the American bishops, was capable of writing before he left for New York, "By transferring these assets to the Trust, I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability."

And, along with Kris Ward, Terence McKiernan, and Peter Isely, I'm now trying to get my head around that statement. It doesn't say,

By transferring these assets to the Trust, I foresee an improved protection of these children.

It doesn't say, 

By transferring these assets to the Trust, I foresee an improved protection of these adult survivors of childhood sexual abuse by priests.

Instead, it talks--a Christian shepherd of a flock talks--about money. It talks about improved protection of hard, cold cash.

Lurking in plain sight for all the world to see in that statement is a parable so shockingly revelatory about the current state of American Catholicism, and why we're in the mess we're in, that any Catholic with even a smidgeon of honest concern should think carefully about what the leader of the U.S. bishops was capable of saying as he headed his previous diocese. 

And about the alacrity with which the Vatican moved to protect those assets, while it has systematically dragged its feet for years on end (can anyone say, Marcial Maciel?) when it's the protection of children that is at issue.

Later: I'm just now seeing that Andrew Sullivan has uploaded a good posting about this story and "the final busting of Cardinal Dolan's lies" at his Dish site.

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