NEW YORK (PIX11) – Timothy Cardinal Dolan lashed out at critics Monday who claimed he moved nearly $57 million dollars in church money into a trust, when he was Archbishop of Milwaukee, so it wouldn’t be vulnerable to lawsuits filed by Catholics who said they were abused by Milwaukee priests.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee released more than six thousand documents Monday, part of a deal it reached in federal court with lawyers representing 570 people who have lawsuits pending against the Catholic Church there.
Dolan was appointed by the Vatican to clean up the Archdiocese in 2002, after the Church’s sexual abuse crisis among the clergy exploded in the United States, and then, around the world.
One of the documents released Monday was a letter written by then-Archbishop Dolan to the Vatican in 2007, seeking permission to transfer money from a cemetery fund into a trust. In the letter, dated June 4, 2007, Dolan wrote, “By transferring these assets to the trust, I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.” The Vatican approved the transfer, during a time when hundreds of lawsuits were being filed against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The Archdiocese filed for bankruptcy protection in 2011, two years after Timothy Dolan left Milwaukee, appointed in 2009 as Archbishop of New York.
A 141-page transcript of Dolan’s videotaped deposition to victims’ lawyers was also released by Cardinal Dolan himself Monday, as well as the attorneys. The deposition was taken at the New York Catholic Center on February 20, 2013, six days before Cardinal Dolan flew to Rome to bid farewell to the retiring Pope Benedict XVI.
Before Benedict was elected Pope, he used to oversee all complaints of priest sexual abuse from around the world, and there’s a letter in the documents to then-Cardinal Ratzinger from Timothy Dolan, talking about a Milwaukee priest who should be removed from the ministry, because of sexual abuse complaints that were substantiated.
During the deposition, Cardinal Dolan was asked whether offending priests received pay-outs of $20,000, when they left the clergy. Dolan responded, “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.”
On Monday afternoon, the Communications Office of the Archdiocese of New York issued a statement on Cardinal Dolan’s behalf, seemingly responding to a press conference being held by Jeff Anderson, a well-known civil attorney representing sex abuse victims. Anderson was talking about specific documents and Dolan’s 2007 letter to the Vatican, claiming, “They’re making a decision, a choice, to move money.” Cardinal Dolan’s statement did not refer to Anderson by name, but said, “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.”
The current Archbishop of Milwaukee, Jerome Listecki, wrote a blog warning parishioners who may read some of the six thousand documents that they should “prepare to be shocked.”
The documents contain graphic details of some priests’ behavior around adolescent boys, including one who was taking nude photos of the children. This same priest was engaging in sexual activity with the boys in a church basement.
The Milwaukee Archdiocese has a link with the names and photos of more than 40 priests, alive and deceased, who were barred from the ministry, because of their behavior around children.
One of them, the late Rev. Lawrence Murphy, was suspected of molesting more than 200 boys at a Wisconsin school for the deaf, between 1950 and 1974.