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.

Why Cardinal Timothy Dolan matters

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. Anita Bongtoke

    not surprising..

    May 31, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
  2. Burbank

    When are all these brainwashed, glassy-eyed Catholics going to wake up to the fact that their organization (can't call it a religion anymore) is nothing but a huge scam machine that keeps them paying their 10% ithe once a week all their lives? They never cared about the children, only the money. I was abused by a priest myself as a child and my next door neighbor was also abused by a different priest. – That Emperor in the Vatican ain't got no clothes!!!! Wake up! Wake up! Wake up!

    May 31, 2012 at 3:19 pm |
    • ReaganDem

      Ok so you're either anti-catholic or mis-informed.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
  3. drdoc

    Keep lecturing the world about the evil gays, evil contraception people, evil liberals. Biggest hypocrites on the face of the earth are the pious Chrisitans who shove the holier than thou act upon us.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:17 pm |
    • Dan Kellogg

      Gays? Contraception? Liberals? Hell, their latest target is The Girl Scouts, THE FREEKIN' GIRL SCOUTS for Christ sake!

      May 31, 2012 at 7:15 pm |
  4. St. Mike

    God surely doesn't do much about ending the abuse!!! Why would anyone want people of this ilk representing him????!!!!!!

    May 31, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  5. just sayin

    Everything happens for a reason and is part of God's plan. Christ was a bas t ard by definition and also a tru bas ta rd to allow this. You have failed your God and your God has failed you. Zues will return.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
  6. Not All Docs Play Golf

    Timothy Dolan comes across as the jovial attention-lover when I've seen him interviewed. Well, now he'll be getting plenty of media attention.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:09 pm |
    • BADGUY

      Timothy Dolan was THE man at the helm in Milwaukee, when some of these problems occurred. The LAST man at the helm had to bail because he used church money to support (and silence) his gay boy friend. It just never ends. I think the WHOLE Catholic Church should plead "insolvency" and join "Gozer", Zeus", "Thor" and "Odin" worship in the museum.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:16 pm |

    I think the Milwaukee Journal reported that the 20,000 $ payout was a little less than the average payout to the victims of these priests (about 30,000 $'s). Also, the local Catholic Church had distributed Millions of dollars out to the individual parishes in order to keep the money OUT of the award fund for victims, agreed upon in the Bankruptcy proceedings.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  8. Dyslexic doG

    Rather than inculcating our children with the primary-color simple Sunday school legends and myths most people do, might I suggest the following ten comandments to enable them to think for themselves.
    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 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 get frightened when you want to "look 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 goblins 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 I 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” 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 religion or other supernatural belief would be quickly dismissed by them as quaint nostalgia from a bygone era. I hope we get there as a species

    May 31, 2012 at 3:08 pm |
  9. cyn507

    luckily the catholic church is on the express train to ruinsville,w/benedict at the wheel. between all the lying, thievery, abuse of children and condemnation of women and nuns in particularily, it won't be long now. and they deserve their sorry fate.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:07 pm |
  10. Dyslexic doG

    pray for them ... that'll fix it. LOLOLOLOLOLOLOL

    May 31, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
  11. dkm

    Are they REALLY arguing that it was better to PAY the priest to leave the church? How about having the jerk arrested and tried like anyone else in this situation. The Catholic Church has ZERO moral authority! This from a Catholic man who has pretty much given up on organized religion and surviving quite well in concert with God!

    May 31, 2012 at 3:06 pm |
    • What

      And just what exactly has ever prevented the victims from going the police?

      May 31, 2012 at 3:26 pm |
    • derp

      "And just what exactly has ever prevented the victims from going the police?"

      The church

      May 31, 2012 at 6:14 pm |
  12. Dyslexic doG

    all organized religion is rotten to the core!

    May 31, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  13. St. Mike

    Timothy Dolan should be put behind bars for conspiracy and obstruction of justice!!! In fact that applies to almost the entire Roman Catholic heirarchy of the Latin Rite!!!!!!!

    May 31, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  14. Fupped DUCK

    Can I get an AAAAAAAA MEN?

    May 31, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  15. LouAz

    Gee, Father Nolan lied about those priesrs. I wonder if he has lied about anything else ?
    Ha Ha Ha Ha Ha ! ! ! ! !
    Truth and their god(s) love brought to you by MEN IN DRESSES !

    May 31, 2012 at 3:05 pm |
  16. tony

    Those were only the priests that were wicked enough to have used condoms with the altar boys

    May 31, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  17. abcdxyz

    “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.”

    How about if you just call the police and let them put these offenders in prison where they will be given food and clothes and shelter by the society at large?

    May 31, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  18. Ken

    So they were rewarded for their actions. Unbelievable.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
    • just sayin

      Not really, it is the Catholics and their Church we are talking about.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
  19. Not All Docs Play Golf

    Timothy Dolan is a blowfish. He recent stance on birth control pill coverage shows that the Catholic church still lives in a male-dominate 12th century bubble. Dolan is one of the bubblemeisters. I left that backward religion long ago.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:03 pm |
  20. Luke

    Dolan has some explaining to do. These pedophile priests should be in jail not given 20k to quietly go away. The Catholic Church has been cultivating and protecting pedophiles for centuries. How can anyone take their children into a Catholic church. God is tired of the abuse !

    May 31, 2012 at 3:02 pm |
    • JoeP199

      But Dolan will still claim the moral authority to dictate what health care coverage is available to female employees.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:11 pm |
    • just sayin

      "God is tired of the abuse !"
      Actually no he isn't. He likes to watch it.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:16 pm |
    • just sayin

      Heck even Jesus who laid with men..."loved" children. See a pattern here????

      May 31, 2012 at 3:18 pm |
    • TR6

      The catholic god must completely approves of his priests buggering altar boys because he hasn’t done anything to stop it, or he simply doesn’t exist (which would also explain so many other things)

      May 31, 2012 at 6:59 pm |
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About this blog

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.