Documents released yesterday in Milwaukee show that then Archbishop Timothy Dolan suggested transferring $59 million to a cemetery trust fund in 2007 to protect it from the claims of victims of sexual abuse by local priests.
According to the Huffington Post, in a letter to a Vatican official Dolan, now cardinal archbishop of the Archdiocese of New York, wrote that transferring the assets would provide 'improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.'
For years Milwaukee harbored some of the country's most notorious pedophile priests, including Lawrence Murphy, who allegedly molested as many as 200 boys during his two and a half decades teaching and leading Saint John’s School for the Deaf in Saint Francis, Wisconsin and Sigfried Widera, who faced 42 counts of child abuse in Wisconsin and California.
Dolan has for years denied that he sought to shield the funds. But the Dolan letter published yesterday, which was sent in 2007, confirms that the Vatican moved quickly to approve his request.
The speed with which they transferred the funds contrasts sharply with the years it took to remove known abusers from the priesthood, some critics have observed. In one case, the Vatican reportedly took five years to remove a convicted sex offender from the priesthood.
5,000 pages were made public yesterday as part of a bankruptcy proceeding. The files also reportedly include correspondence in which Dolan informs the Vatican that proposals to change statutes of limitations on sex abuse claims could adversely affect the Milwaukee archdiocese.
The portrait of Dolan that emerges in the papers is of a meticulous administrator concerned to protect an institution's assets while defending its reputation.
Documents confirm that payments were made to induce some priests accused of sexual abuse to leave ministry and give up their faculties.
The current archbishop of Milwaukee, Jerome E. Listecki, last week warned Catholics in his archdiocese that the newly released documents could shake their faith, before attempting to explain the actions of church leaders while offering apologies to victims.
The records released in Milwaukee yesterday represent only a fraction of the full record and more will be published shortly, but already they confirm what has previously been hinted in the past by litigants.
In a statement yesterday Dolan claimed he welcomed the revelations: ‘I welcome today’s voluntary release of documents by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee that contain information and details related to sexual abuse by clergy, and how the Archdiocese of Milwaukee responded to it.’
Dolan’s statement concluded: 'The sexual abuse of minors is a crime and it is a sin. The Church must remain rigorous in our response when an allegation of abuse is received, and ever-vigilant in maintaining our safeguards to do all that we can to see that children are protected.
'It is my hope that the release of these documents will also help to show how the Catholic Church in the United States has become a leader in dealing with the society-wide scourge of sexual abuse, and help other groups and organizations who are also seeking combat this evil.'
The newly released documents reveal Dolan's skills as a crisis manager and what some have called a corporate-style turnaround specialist.
Meanwhile victims on Monday called for a federal investigation into Dolan's actions and those of his predecessors.
Here's the CBS report on the documents release: