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February 21st, 2013
08:50 PM ET

Milwaukee lawsuits shadow N.Y. archbishop

By Ted Rowlands and Kathleen Johnston, CNN

(CNN)–He's the top Roman Catholic figure in the United States, the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and one of the princes of the church who will decide on a new pope.

But Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, is now under fire for how his old archdiocese in Milwaukee shifted money as it faced lawsuits by victims of sexual abuse by priests in Wisconsin.

Dolan sat for a deposition with lawyers for some of the victims on Wednesday, the New York archdiocese confirmed. He was Milwaukee's archbishop from 2002 to 2009, a period in which the archdiocese moved $55 million into a fund for cemetery maintenance and as much as $74 million to a fund for individual parishes.

Dolan "made a conscious decision to secretly and in a quite sinister way to move funds into parishes and transfer funds into other corporations to avoid having to pay the survivors," Jeff Anderson, a lawyer for some of the abuse victims, told CNN.

Dolan declined an interview with CNN for this report. But in a 2011 interview with a New York television station, he called the allegations "ludicrous."

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But the Rev. Jim Connell, the former vice chancellor of the Milwaukee archdiocese, said the church needs a directive from the very top to come clean.

"There is a sense of secrecy from a top level," said Connell, now retired. "And I would hope that starting with the holy father, Benedict XVI, he would tell the cardinals and tell the bishops to talk."

The worldwide church has spent years dealing with the fallout from its handling of priests accused of sexually abusing children, and Anderson said the Milwaukee archdiocese "has been particularly deceitful." Wisconsin state law blocked lawsuits by most victims of sexual abuse for years, which protected the church. When that changed, lawyers for the victims say, the archdiocese began preparing for court by moving its money.

The archdiocese declared bankruptcy in 2011 when faced with lawsuits by hundreds of potential victims. In December, a bankruptcy court judge found that the timing of the 2005 transfer to the Parish Deposit Fund appeared "fishy," but ultimately decided that the move was justified: The money belonged to individual parishes, not the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Judge Susan Kelley ruled.

A creditors' committee pointed to minutes from a 2003 meeting of the archdiocese's finance committee that discussed whether to set up a fund to "shelter" the Parish Deposit Fund. But Kelley said that sentence "does not necessarily constitute the smoking gun" that proves the church was trying to shield money from the victims.

Church officials argued the $55 million transfer to the cemetery fund, in 2007, was needed and came from people who paid for burial plots in eight Catholic cemeteries, expecting perpetual care for the grave sites.

"The obligation to maintain the cemeteries never ends," said William Duffin, an attorney representing the cemetery fund. "No one knows for sure how much is enough."

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Kelley has yet to rule on the question of whether the transfer to the cemetery fund was proper. But Marquette University law professor Ralph Anzivino said that if the archdiocese was moving money around to hide it from abuse victims, it may have broken the law.

"That is what's called a fraudulent conveyance under the law," Anzivino said. "You can't, in anticipation of insolvency, transfer assets away from yourself for your own benefit and lessen what the creditors are entitled to."

A win for the victims could mean that they would not only get a share of the cemetery trust fund, but a share of future earnings from the sale of grave sites. A win for the church could lay out a blueprint for the other dioceses now grappling with lawsuits themselves and could cement Dolan's reputation in the eyes of the Vatican as the guardian of the American church.

Dolan is among the cardinals who will choose a new pope after the resignation of Benedict XVI. The cardinal himself was a 33-1 longshot for the papacy as of last week, according to one British bookmaker.

Milwaukee's Chapter 11 proceedings already have led to the discovery that in 2003, he approved payments of $20,000 to get abusive priests to leave the church. The Milwaukee archdiocese confirmed that it had offered the payoffs as "the most expedient and cost-effective way" to get rid of molesters.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests urged Dolan to allow his Wednesday deposition to be open to the public rather than placed under seal: "The 570 victims of priest sex offenders who filed cases, Catholics of the Milwaukee Archdiocese, and the public deserve to read and see Dolan's testimony."

And they're not the only ones calling for openness. Connell said the church needs to "open up, let it all be known."

"It's the love of money that translates into greed, that is the root of all evils," Connell said. "And that seems to be what I see is playing out in this situation.

"What's under the lid?" he asked. "What's being hidden? How embarrassing can it be?"

CNN's Elizabeth Nunez contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Bishops • Catholic Church

soundoff (240 Responses)
  1. dog4dog

    no member of the american catholic church should be allowed anywhere near the top levels of the vatican much less at the very top, the fact that soooo many pedophile cases came out of one employment field leads me to beleive that some sick network is responsible, pedophile crimes in the american catholic church scream of organized corruption/crime and of sickos

    February 22, 2013 at 2:34 pm |
    • Cherries

      This isn't an American problem. The RCC pedophila happens in every country the RCC is at. It's a global problem.

      February 22, 2013 at 2:45 pm |
    • justice

      in catholic diocese all over the world.. this church is disgust

      February 22, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      Organized it was – but it was organized by the Vatican, and pervades the entire church all around the world. There was worse many other places (see the slavery in the Magdalene laundries), and we were one of the first to break the silence and demand the coverup stop – other places around the world are still working through that, or are still allowing the coverup.

      It's as much a fault to assume America is always wrong, as it is to assume America is always right.

      February 22, 2013 at 3:30 pm |
  2. Science

    No god(s) required !

    Has Evolution Given Humans Unique Brain Structures

    Feb. 22, 2013 — Humans have at least two functional networks in their cerebral cortex not found in rhesus monkeys. This means that new brain networks were likely added in the course of evolution from primate ancestor to human.

    http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130222120753.htm

    February 22, 2013 at 2:17 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Don't celebrate quite yet. Rhesus monkeys don't seem to believe in God. One of the networks you're referring to may cause the God problem in humans.

      February 22, 2013 at 2:21 pm |
    • Science

      Red Brain, Blue Brain: Republicans and Democrats Process Risk Differently, Research Finds

      Feb. 13, 2013 — A team of political scientists and neuroscientists has shown that liberals and conservatives use different parts of the brain when they make risky decisions, and these regions can be used to predict which political party a person prefers. The new study suggests that while genetics or parental influence may play a significant role, being a Republican or Democrat changes how the brain functions.

      http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2013/02/130213173131.htm

      February 22, 2013 at 2:33 pm |
    • Austin

      Uh oh! What if there is a devil.?
      By the way , why do you think these popes are so deviant? Are you sure there is no devil or demonic evil?

      February 22, 2013 at 3:41 pm |
  3. Bluto1941

    I was raised in the RCC and am now an agnostic. I don't have any numbers to back this but it has been my experience that there are more ex-catholics turning away from religion than there are staying life long RCC members. They have a 1600+ year track record of criminal abuse of all flavors. It boggles the mind how strong their Kung-Fu is considering how many people across the globe still line up every Sunday to fill their collection plates.

    February 22, 2013 at 2:04 pm |
    • Catherine

      I agree with you totally and I am an ex catholic who worked in a convent and am now an athiest....I have seen horrors in the convent and also the sinister ways the priests have behaved over the years....I am so happy I am an athiest now.

      February 22, 2013 at 2:39 pm |
    • Hmmm...

      Probably you are only looking at the United States. Catholic population in the United States is roughly 23.9%. Contrast this with somewhere like Spain, where 94% are reported to be Catholic, Portgual are 84%, Italy is 90%, Honduras is 97%.

      http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Catholic_Church_by_country

      February 22, 2013 at 2:43 pm |
    • OTOH

      Bluto & Catherine,

      Me too, but I'll bet that we (and the numerous other exes) still show up on their rolls to pad their numbers.

      I quit, however, not chiefly due to the humans who abuse(d) people or behave(d) as hypocrites, but because I finally had to admit that there is no evidence for a supernatural fantasy being up/out/over/under there, no matter which religion proclaims and espouses it.

      February 22, 2013 at 2:50 pm |
    • EdwardTr

      Ok so the country is 90% catholic but only 20% (or about) attend church (excluding Christmas, first communions and weddings). Those 80% are Catholics by tradition only and not by religion. In US it is becoming more common for non Christian families, particularly those with kids, to have a Christmas tree. Those non-Christian trees usually have white lights.

      February 22, 2013 at 3:07 pm |
    • Bluto1941

      OTOH, yes very similar experience. 12 years of catholic school and absolutely zero knowledge of the bible. I began to study pretty seriously for myself and the deeper I got, the more absurd the mythology got. Most if not all of the major talking points of the bible are predated by other ancient religions by hundreds or more years. A person has to honest enough to look in the mirror and tell themselves that this may be all there is. I've met many people who openly acknowledge the absurdity of their belief system but are too scared to accept that this life may be all there is to it. No great answers to the mysteries of life, just oblivion after the big sleep takes us.

      February 22, 2013 at 3:19 pm |
    • OTOH

      Bluto1941,

      Yes, very similar experiences. I wonder if they goofed a bit in having us translate The Iliad, The Odyssey, The Aeneid, etc. from Latin and learning about all of those other fantasy gods that folks were absolutely certain about in their day?

      We were taught very little of the OT, but I'd say quite a bit of the NT. It was mainly a whole bunch of Church history and dogma other than that.

      I found these stats interesting (although I can make no concrete statement of their fact):

      "Over a three-year cycle Sunday Masses include 3.7% of the Old Testament (plus Psalms) and 40.8% of the New Testament. If you add weekday Masses you'll hear 13.5% of the Old Testament (plus Psalms) and 71.5% of the New Testament."
      –http://catholic-resources.org/Lectionary/Statistics.htm

      February 22, 2013 at 4:25 pm |
  4. Susan StoHelit

    When you hide the truth, cover up – that means you know the truth is a problem for you.

    February 22, 2013 at 2:03 pm |
  5. Viewing list for

    Tim Dolan, Bill Deacon and all RCC parents berore leaving your children alone with the clergy.
    Doubt
    Hand of God
    Se*x Crimes and the Vatican
    Our Fathers
    Twist of Faith
    Boys of St. Vincent
    Song ffor a Raggy Boy
    Bad Education
    Breaking the Silence
    Deliver us from Evil
    Twist of Faith Sins of Our Fathers
    the latest on HBO,,..Mea Maxima Culpa
    Dozens more from around the world.
    These films and docu*mentries shoul be required viewing in every RCC church, school and university; maybe the only way to cleanse the brainwashing.

    February 22, 2013 at 2:00 pm |
  6. richunix

    Exactly. Teach them the following 10 Commandments..
    1. DO NOT automatically believe something just because a parent, priest, rabbi or minister tells you that you must.
    2. DO NOT think that claims about magic, miracles and the supernatural are more likely true because they are written in old books. That makes them less likely true.
    3. DO analyze claims about religion with the same critical eye that you would claims about money, political positions or social issues.
    4. DO NOT accept it when religious leaders tell you it is wrong to question, doubt or think for yourself. It never is. Only those selling junk cars want to prohibit you from looking under the hood.
    5. DO decouple morality from a belief in the supernatural, in any of its formulations (Christianity, Judaism, Islam etc.). One can be moral without believing in gods, ghosts and ghouls and believing in any of them does not make one moral.
    6. DO a bit of independent research into whatever book you were brought up to believe in. Who are its authors and why should you believe them in what they say? How many translations has it gone through? Do we have originals, or only edited copies of copies of copies– the latter is certainly true for every single book in the Bible.
    7. DO realize that you are only a Christian (or Hindu or Jew) because of where you were born. Were you lucky enough to be born in the one part of the World that “got it right”?
    8. DO NOT be an apologist or accept the explanation “your mind is too small to understand the greatness of God,” “God is outside the Universe” or “God moves in mysterious ways” when you come upon logical inconsistencies in your belief. A retreat to mysticism is the first refuge of the cornered wrong.
    9. DO understand where your religion came from and how it evolved from earlier beliefs to the point you were taught it. Are you lucky enough to be living at that one point in history where we “got it right”?
    10. DO educate yourself on the natural Universe, human history and the history of life on Earth, so as to be able to properly evaluate claims that a benevolent, mind-reading god is behind the whole thing.
    I sometimes think that, if we first taught our children these simple guidelines, any supernatural belief would be quickly dismissed by them as quaint nostalgia from a bygone era. I hope we get there as a species.

    February 22, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
    • Theo No

      I can do your whole post in three word, richunix:

      "Groupthink is bad."

      February 22, 2013 at 2:10 pm |
  7. Judas Priest

    You will burn, Dolan. You and all the predators you sheltered, all the criminals who conspired with you, you will most assuredly burn.

    February 22, 2013 at 1:55 pm |
    • Theo No

      You just revealed one of the reasons humans invented gods: to have some great reckoning and balancing for all the injustices that are inherent in life.

      February 22, 2013 at 2:02 pm |
    • Judas Priest

      Theo No,

      And let some god have all the fun? Who said anything about that?

      February 22, 2013 at 2:07 pm |
  8. gramma nance

    Watch the HBO special 'Silence in the House of God'...it is on right now...and is a REAL eye-opener! The cover-up goes right up to the present Pope...and I'm Catholic (sad to say)

    February 22, 2013 at 1:49 pm |
    • Full t*itle

      Mea Maxima Culpa: Silence in the House of God. Thanks for watching it gramma, many of your faith will ignore it. but do your best to talk them into watching the film. The truth can be more powerful than the faith.

      February 22, 2013 at 2:09 pm |
  9. Meh

    They're all princes....

    February 22, 2013 at 1:45 pm |
    • Theo No

      . . . of darkness.

      February 22, 2013 at 1:59 pm |
  10. Ungodly Discipline

    The majority of people on this planet will, in fact, believe anything they are told. And if there is a satisfactory amount of time for brain washing to take place, they may become religious. Christians are very much the same as Nazis, Muslims, Jews and many other smaller cults that are affected by the charlatans of religion and power.

    Why were atheists spared? Are we more intelligent? I don’t think so. There is something else at work here that I find frightening. Could something so bizarre happen to me?

    February 22, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • justice

      interesting is the nazis, KKK, white supremacist and tea party are christian.

      more interesting is they all pray to a black jesus.

      February 22, 2013 at 1:30 pm |
    • steve

      so are atheist and vegans.

      February 22, 2013 at 1:54 pm |
  11. justice

    if anyone dares to compare what the church does 'good' to these crimes,, they are just deflecting.

    The fact is, the catholic church leaches off all of us by not paying their fair share in taxes. More so, they receive well over a billion dollars of our tax dollars, grant money. They use our fire dept, water, roads.. yet they acc-umulate wealth. We need to tax them.

    And even more.. We know they launder money, fact. Their profit center catholic charities is run off our tax dollar.

    And keep in mind that if any of their organizations don't make enough in profits, they are shut down. Yes, just as they shut down schools, churches and hospitals that are less profitable.

    February 22, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
  12. justice

    Over 100,000 children victims word wide of just pedophilia, not counting the older kids abused. And these victims are spread around all diocese across the world.

    Based on the volume and the widespread cover ups,, it wouldn't be fair to state only some were bad. In fact based on the data, nearly all were evil. The cover ups were the worst crimes

    February 22, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • Westboro Baptard

      And yet people still show up to church. It is almost as if they have lost their freedom to make rational decisions.

      February 22, 2013 at 1:17 pm |
    • justice

      they talk about death and hell to them as children, brainwashing begins there. How awful this group is, stealing a child's spirit.

      February 22, 2013 at 1:23 pm |
  13. justice

    cardinal dolan compared child victims to prost-itutes.. He helped with the cover ups and uses his power to convince lawmakers to stop laws that would expose the truth.

    February 22, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
  14. richunix

    I do find it sad that the Church leadership has chosen to move the money in order to avoid paying for victims they created. I’m in agreement that this did come from the highest levels within the system. “Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely”. But then as we study (with non-religious eyes) the New Testament, one can see this is the continuation of Power and Control.

    "And the day will come when the mystical generation of Jesus, by the supreme being as his father in the womb of a virgin will be cla.ssed with the fable of the generation of Minerva in the brain of Jupiter. But we may hope that the dawn of reason and freedom of thought in these United States will do away with all this artificial scaffolding, and restore to us the primitive and genuine doctrines of this the most venerated reformer of human errors."- Thomas Jefferson

    Stephen F Roberts: “I contend that we are both atheists. I just believe in one fewer god than you do. When you understand why you dismiss all the other possible gods, you will understand why I dismiss yours.”

    February 22, 2013 at 1:12 pm |
  15. sandalista

    No child's behind left....

    February 22, 2013 at 1:11 pm |
  16. HeavenSent

    Carnal being, thinking and doing, never to learn Jesus' spiritual truth. I ran out of tampons but I have some cigarettes left.
    Wave to me when I reside with Jesus and you're sitting complaining with your atheist buddies on the wrong side of the divide.

    Amen.

    February 22, 2013 at 1:03 pm |
    • Christardo

      Bring your young, defenseless children to a place where they can be r@ped both mentally and physically!! Brilliant!!

      February 22, 2013 at 1:13 pm |
    • Westboro Baptard

      If you hate atheists so much stop using our science, technology and medicine.

      February 22, 2013 at 1:15 pm |
    • *

      Hey guys, This is a parody of ol' pal HS. Read the thing, dangit...
      (me, I'm tired of them... but whatevah...)

      February 22, 2013 at 1:19 pm |
    • M.A.D

      @HS, what the hell you barging about your religion when your top notch Cardinal is involved in some illegal and sinister acts?

      February 22, 2013 at 1:21 pm |
    • richunix

      I kind of refer to Jesus as a state criminal, as he was executed for crimes against the Roman state, he was more like the modern David Koresh. So we all should start carrying a staff with a hangman noose or an model of a electric chair hanging from it.

      February 22, 2013 at 1:24 pm |
    • ..

      Dud, you'd think you guys would get the clue with this line: "I ran out of tampons but I have some cigarettes left." * obviously did.

      February 22, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
  17. Christianity is a form of SEVERE mental illness

    ""The obligation to maintain the cemeteries never ends," said William Duffin, an attorney representing the cemetery fund. "No one knows for sure how much is enough."
    .
    Yes, 55 million to maintain the cemetery. Priorities....is not the needy and the living. Am I the only one who see Duffin talking out the sid eof his mouth? How do you know when a Catholic is lying......when you see his/her mouth moving

    February 22, 2013 at 12:56 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      We never know how much is enough – so we figured this would be a great place to shelter money from those kids.

      February 22, 2013 at 2:13 pm |
  18. The Disgrace Keeps on Coming

    The poor victims, when will the Church come clean? But I guess we all know this is never going to happen.

    February 22, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • S the D

      The victims and their parents deserve it for being gullible saps. Mindless mobs of people.

      February 22, 2013 at 12:48 pm |
    • Howard

      Christianity as a faith is fine. Roman Catholicism is presided over by a core of administrators called cardinals, and the administration is rotten to its very core. It is the reason why growing numbers of American and European Catholics are either abandoning the Church or cherry-picking its teachings. The highest teachers of the Church have destroyed their credibility.

      February 22, 2013 at 12:50 pm |
    • ..

      S the D, are you implying that these children deserved to be raped? You're an asshole.

      February 22, 2013 at 1:18 pm |
    • S the D

      They absolutely deserve it. These kids should be standing up to the church so these crimes don't occur to anyone else. These kids should be outraged at the evil they have endured. Instead, they allow the church to continue fvcking kids, due to their "faith." (I don't want to speak up because it could harm the church.") Brainwashed sheep get what they deserve.

      February 22, 2013 at 1:27 pm |
    • ..

      You are an absolute asshole. Children don't deserve to be raped because their parents are stupid fucking morons. I hope you don't have children, and if you do, I hope theey get taken away from you and placed with a couple that isn't as fucking retarded as you. I hope you die soon. You are just as bad as the priests raping those kids, you degenerate. Fuck off and die.

      February 22, 2013 at 2:11 pm |
    • Susan StoHelit

      No one deserves it – and to believe the church was that evil was shocking to me as well – and I'm an atheist with an extremely low opinion of the church. It's nothing anyone could reasonably have expected or forseen.

      February 22, 2013 at 2:14 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      S the D: Wow, there is so much wrong with you if this is how you truly feel. To think for one second you would blame the innocent victims is almost as disgusting as the abuse.

      February 22, 2013 at 2:56 pm |
    • mulehead

      S the D – You're an ass of, pardon the term, BIBLICAL proportions! Your ignorance is only overshadowed by your insensitivity...

      February 22, 2013 at 4:04 pm |
  19. Jeebus Chreebus

    When people tell you who they are by their actions......believe them.

    The Catholic Church is run by pedophiles, perverts, thieves, and the criminals who hide them.

    Who, in good conscience, would continue to belong to a church who's leadership has committed so many crimes against humanity?

    February 22, 2013 at 12:39 pm |
    • S the D

      If it was possible to reason with religious people, there would be no religious people. Maybe in 200 years or so they will all die off.

      February 22, 2013 at 12:43 pm |
    • Catholic by choice

      It is a tragedy of enormous proportions, and the misguided cover-ups "for the good of the Church" are indefensible. However, does this negate the good work of thousands of parish priests who have nothing to do with the offenses and the cover-ups? I personally know of and work with priests and religious who have helped save countless lives, raised people out of poverty and despair and completely changed the lives of abandoned children. These good souls are as disturbed by the actions of others as any of you are. Please continue to demand responsibility, but please, please don't paint all the members of the Church with the same brush.

      February 22, 2013 at 12:57 pm |
    • Truth Prevails :-)

      CBC: Anyone who still stays involved in a group like this is supporting that group. You know what is going on and the cover-ups involved, why would you associate yourself with it? I'm sure we can all name people affiliated with the catholic church who would never do this type of thing but that has nothing to do with the belief, good and bad don't pick and choose. There are many other denominations you could choose that do extreme good and are not the criminal organization that the catholic cult of peds is, for that matter you could drop all your silly beliefs in imaginary characters and still see the good being done by the numerous secular charities out there.

      February 22, 2013 at 1:04 pm |
    • Hmmm...

      Uh-there's a flaw in your logic. What you just stated was "prejudice." You are looking at a relatively small group of people who happen to belong to a larger group and begin painting them all in a negative light.

      This is akin to saying "Well all Al-Qaeda are Muslim, so the Muslims are evil!" or saying, "Mexican drug cartels have Mexican members in them. Therefore all Mexican people shouldn't be trusted or treated well because they are part of a Mexican drug cartel."

      Are there people in the Catholic church who use their position of authority to do unspeakable, henious and morally repulsive acts? Certainly. You'll find that in any organization. But to paint several million people with the same brush is just ignorant.

      February 22, 2013 at 1:51 pm |
  20. Jeebus Chreebus

    The Catholic Church has perpetrated so many abuses and atrocities.

    One must really have to check their brain at the door to continue to be a part of such a church.

    February 22, 2013 at 12:33 pm |
    • TheZel

      I guess the same should go for the United States?? With all of its atrocities its committed over its history, why should anyone swear allegiance to its flag.

      February 22, 2013 at 1:00 pm |
    • ..

      TheZel: move.

      February 22, 2013 at 1:20 pm |
    • justice

      thezel.. move

      February 22, 2013 at 1:29 pm |
    • Hmmm...

      I love that answer. "Move." Sure, let's find a society where there have never been atrocities committed.

      Oh wait, that place doesn't exist.

      February 22, 2013 at 2:20 pm |
    • El Diablo con Queso

      He won't, he'll simply cease to exist like the rest of us and it is worse in his case because true punishment will have never been handed out. You think the CC actually believes what it teaches? The whole hierarchy would be sitting around doing hail mary's all day if it really believe in what it taught.

      February 22, 2013 at 2:47 pm |
    • Cherries

      Hmmm, I love the way you take the indictment against the United States as perfectly fine. Move.

      February 22, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
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The CNN Belief Blog covers the faith angles of the day's biggest stories, from breaking news to politics to entertainment, fostering a global conversation about the role of religion and belief in readers' lives. It's edited by CNN's Daniel Burke with contributions from Eric Marrapodi and CNN's worldwide news gathering team.