May 31st, 2012
12:12 PM ET

Top U.S. archbishop linked to abusive priest payout plan

By Richard Allen Greene, CNN

(CNN) - One of the most powerful Catholic Church leaders in America approved payments of $20,000 to get abusive priests to leave the church, abuse victims and the archdiocese in question said Thursday.

Victims feel "considerable dismay" that leaders of the church in Milwaukee "have been apparently engaged in paying off those who betrayed the children of our archdiocese," they said in an open letter to the current head of the church in Milwaukee, Archbishop Jerome Listecki.

But the case could reverberate far beyond the borders of the Midwestern city.

Timothy Dolan, who was archbishop of Milwaukee at the time, is now archbishop of New York, head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and a cardinal.

Notes from a meeting he attended in Wisconsin in 2003 show a "proposal" to offer $20,000 to "currently unassignable priests."

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Former Catholic priest Patrick Wall, who now helps abuse victims sue the Catholic Church, said that term meant only one thing in his experience.

"Unassignable priests are those clerics whom the bishop cannot place in a parish because he has a serious moral impediment," he said. "In my 20 years' experience, the only impediment the term 'unassignables' referred to was a credible accusation of childhood sexual abuse."

The minutes of the finance council meeting emerged as part of Archdiocese of Milwaukee bankruptcy proceedings, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests said Wednesday.

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The archdiocese filed for bankruptcy protection last year in the face of lawsuits from people who said they had been abused by its priests.

On Thursday, the archdiocese confirmed that it had offered payoffs to abusive priests as "the most expedient and cost-effective way to have offenders laicized or removed from the priesthood."

Having an abuser volunteer to go through the process known as laicization - formally leaving the priesthood - "was faster and less expensive. It made sense to try and move these men out of the priesthood as quickly as possible," the archdiocese said in a statement.

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"Like it or not, the archdiocese is canonically responsible for the financial care of a priest - even a priest who has committed such a horrible crime and sin such as clergy sexual abuse of a minor," the statement said.

Joe Zwilling, a spokesman for Dolan in New York, told CNN on Thursday that he had "no comment at this time," adding: "I don't expect to have a comment later. I was not in Milwaukee. I don't know the background of what happened there."

He denied having seen a New York Times report about the allegations.

Dolan was not scheduled to make public appearances Thursday.

One Catholic church source defended the payment plan on Thursday, saying, “You either pay them to leave and give them money for food and clothes and shelter as they look for a job or you have a drawn out trial that could take years.”

“Wouldn’t that be preferable than to keep them as priests and paying their salaries,” the source, who would agree to speak only anonymously. “And wouldn’t it be better than a trial and to have victims testifying and cross examined?”

CNN Belief Blog co-editor Eric Marrapodi and CNN's Chris Kokenes and Marie Malzberg and Adam Reiss contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Bishops • Catholic Church • Christianity

soundoff (324 Responses)
  1. saboor

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    June 19, 2012 at 9:57 am |
  2. papa bear

    what these sorry excuss for a humanbeing should get is a 20.00 taxi ride to a prison cell.

    June 3, 2012 at 4:07 pm |
  3. Reality


    Money wasted as the "vomit-inducing" ped-ophilia and coverup will simply hasten the decline of all religions as they finally go extinct from their own absurdity.. It is time to replace all religions with a few rules like "Do No Harm" and convert all houses of "worthless worship" to recreation facilities and parks.

    June 3, 2012 at 9:20 am |
  4. myklds

    We, TRUE believers have lesser tendencies to commit murders and other unpardonable sins than atheists because, we believe that aside from it is logically, morally and lawfully wrong to harm our fellow beings, we also believe that they are abominable in the sight of God. In other words, we believe that in everything we do, we are answerable NOT ONLY by ourselves but ALSO to God. If our rationale fails, we still have faith in God that will enlighten, streghten and lead us back to our senses. Hence, we will never do things that would harm others even if we are in the brink to do so and being motivated by any circu.stances and even if we are in the position and capacity to do it likewise the cability to get away with it.

    On the other hand, atheists rely ONLY on their own understanding and think that they are answerable ONLY by themselves. Then, what if it (understanding) would fail? What if they are getting push by an unfortunate circu.mstance and are in the position to do so and have the capability to get away with it?

    And to be honest, we TRUELY religious people are cherry-pickers of bible because we only follow whatever good things and examples written on it that would strenghten us and improve our lives both in spiritual and temporal aspects. We ultimately disregard the opposites.

    Apparently, atheists also cherry-pick bible verses, the difference is, they follow the other way around. And that made them (atheists) what they are now.

    To conclude. Nobody commits atrocities in the name of religion but there's a lot of people that HIDE behind religion and USE the name of religion to justify their atrocities...and they are...the TRUE-BLUE & COOL BLOODDED...ATHEISTS.

    June 2, 2012 at 9:38 am |
    • Ray

      So, who wrote the bible? God? With what? A no. 2 pencil? A fountain pen?

      Did he write it through man? Well, how do you know those men were being truthful? How are any other so-called prophets any more unequivocal? The bottom line is that man wrote the bible...is what you say not hypocritical? I mean, if it is so wrong for an atheist to trust his own conscience, why is it so right for Christians to trust so firmly in a man-made book?

      June 2, 2012 at 4:53 pm |
    • TG

      The religions of the world are more blood guilty than are atheists, for at Revelation 18:24, concerning the world wide empire of false religion called Babylon the Great (Rev 17:5), that includes Catholicism, it says: "Yes, in her was found the blood of prophets and of holy ones and of all those who have been slaughtered on the earth.”

      Jesus, three days before his death, put the Jewish religious leaders in with this false religious empire, saying: "Serpents, offspring of vipers, how are YOU to flee from the judgment of Ge·hen′na? For this reason, here I am sending forth to you prophets and wise men and public instructors. Some of them you will kill and impale, and some of them you will scourge in your synagogues and persecute from city to city; that there may come upon you all the righteous blood spilled on earth, from the blood of righteous Abel to the blood of Zech·a·ri′ah son of Bar·a·chi′ah, whom you murdered between the sanctuary and the altar."(Matt 23:33-35)

      Though not living at the time of Abel or Zechariah, these Jewish religious leaders exhibited the same hateful and wicked disposition as their forefathers toward those sent forth by Jehovah God to them. Thus, Jesus, as God's appointed judge, held them accountable for "all the righteous blood spilled on the earth."

      June 2, 2012 at 9:22 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.