Milwaukee Archdiocese, Under Dolan, Paid Sex Abusers to Leave Priesthood

Laurie Goodstein reports in the New York Times:

[A] document unearthed during bankruptcy proceedings for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and made public by victims’ advocates reveals that the archdiocese did make such payments to multiple accused priests to encourage them to seek dismissal, thereby allowing the church to remove them from the payroll.

A spokesman for the archdiocese confirmed on Wednesday that payments of as much as $20,000 were made to “a handful” of accused priests “as a motivation” not to contest being defrocked. The process, known as “laicization,” is a formal church juridical procedure that requires Vatican approval, and can take far longer if the priest objects.

Timothy Dolan, now a Cardinal and the president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, but at the time the Archbishop of Milwaukee, authorized the payments. He did not respond to several requests for comment, according to the Times.

Here are some things Dolan has commented on lately:

  • He suggested New York’s marriage equality bill was akin laws in totalitarian societies;
  • He compared gay marriage to “polygamy, adultery, forced marriages;”
  • After the Obama administration declined to defend the Defense of Marriage Act in court, he accused it of “hostility” toward “traditional marriage,” and a “new, more aggressive position” on gay marriage that would “precipitate a national conflict between church and state of enormous proportions and to the detriment of both institutions;
  • He found President Obama’s support for marriage equality “deeply saddening;”
  • He said the White House is “strangling” the church with the contraception coverage requirement;
  • He wrote that the contraception coverage is “un-American;”
  • He worried that by inviting HHS Secretary Kathleen Sebelius to speak, Georgetown University showed it was moving to a more “secular model, where they would take their cues from what’s happening in contemporary events instead of the timeless wisdom of the church.”

Pertinent to the payments made to abusive Milwaukee priests—one, Goodstein reported, had sexually assaulted 10 minors—in March the National Catholic Reporter noted how Dolan was echoing the words of Bill Donohue, the vitriolic head of the Catholic League, calling the director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), David Clohessy, a “con artist:”

Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. bishops’ conference, posted a link on his blog this afternoon to a statement from Bill Donohue, the head of the Catholic League, which suggests the director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests may be a “con artist.”

The post comes as the victims’ advocacy group and its director, David Clohessy, have found support in recent days on the editorial pages of several national papers in light of attempts by attorneys representing priests accused of abuse to obtain 23 years of the group’s documents.

Dolan’s post came on his “The Gospel in the Digital Age” blog at the New York Archdiocese website. It quotes in full three paragraphs of a statement by Donohue before providing people a link to read the rest.

Donohue’s statement, titled “SNAP Unravels,” is a long rehash of some of the facts surrounding the attempts by priests’ lawyers, which resulted last January in Clohessy’s deposition in a case involving a priest accused of abuse in Kansas City, Mo.

After making numerous references to the transcript of that deposition, which was released March 2, Donohue asks: “So is David Clohessy a sincere man driven by the pursuit of justice? Or is he a con artist driven by revenge? It may very well be that the former description aptly explains how he started, while the latter describes what he has become.”

This week, according to Goodstein, SNAP sent a letter to the Milwaukee archdiocese, asking, “In what other occupation, especially one working with families and operating schools and youth programs, is an employee given a cash bonus for raping and sexually assaulting children?”

Kathryn Joyce published an extensive interview with Clohessy at RD in March about efforts by the accused Kansas City priest and the Archdiocese of St. Louis to subpoena confidential records from SNAP. There, she wrote:

While the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops has denied that there is a national strategy for the Church to fight sex abuse cases more aggressively, even the Church’s staunchest defenders see the pattern. As William Donohue, the pugilistic president of the Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights, told the New York Times this week, bishops are going after SNAP because “SNAP is a menace to the Catholic Church.”

Clohessy told Joyce that the recent escalation against SNAP showed that the dioceses were attempting “to discredit, derail, bankrupt, and silence SNAP. And to scare anyone—police, prosecutors, victims, concerned Catholics—from contacting us and reporting crimes and exposing corruption.”

Sarah Posner, author of God’s Profits: Faith, Fraud, and the Republican Crusade for Values Voters, covers politics and religion. Her work has appeared in The Washington Post, The Guardian, The Atlantic, The American ProspectThe NationSalon, and other publications. Follow her on TwitterRSS feed Email