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. LouAZ

    Wonder if the $20,000 payoff was per victim ? Well, since there were thousands and thousands of victims maybe even the Chief Po-oper couldn't keep track of them when that was his job, even with his god(s) help.

    May 31, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  2. Ed in Reno, Nevada

    "Our second collection today is for the Priest's Payoff Fund. Please give generously."

    May 31, 2012 at 4:03 pm |
  3. vp

    I am amazed that anyone would EVER give a dime to a church.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  4. psd

    Crime pays well or there would not be so many lobbyists on "K" street in DC.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:59 pm |
  5. Xavier C.

    The Catholic leadership do not care about anyone's salvation, only their coffers and it seems cheaper to pay pedophiles to disappear than to turn them in to the local police for prosecution, as that would open the Catholics to being sued, which would lessen their coffers.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  6. Ed in Reno, Nevada

    How ironic that during the middle ages the Catholic Church allowed its members to pay "indulgances" to the church in order to commit sins. Nowdays the Catholic Church pays its priests to commit sins. Talk about coming full circle...no pun intended.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:58 pm |
  7. brich22

    $20,000 payoff to get rid of 1 pedophile

    Pope will have to bust his secret piggy banks.


    May 31, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
  8. Barry G.

    It would be better for a person to have a millstone tied around their neck and for them to be thrown into the ocean, than for a person to cause one of these little ones to stumble.

    –Jesus Christ

    May 31, 2012 at 3:56 pm |
    • It's Time

      I'd bet some concrete overshoes would work just as well. Let's take these child molesters and dump them into the sea.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:08 pm |
  9. beelzabarber

    so crime DOES pay. Especially in the Catholic church. You guys must be very proud

    May 31, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • Kevin

      I'm sure you're just as disgusted by the rampant corruption in our government. You must be very proud of the government you helped elect.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:55 pm |
    • LaTuya83

      At least the goverment isn't raping little kids

      May 31, 2012 at 4:05 pm |
    • Kevin

      Nah, just bombing them in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
  10. Steve

    I have a question. Would anyone know if this behavior is a vioation within the Church? Is there such a thing as a moral crime in the Catholic Church such that these pedophiles might be fired or dismissed with cause from their jobs? If there isn't, the Catholic religion doesn't seem to be based on the scriptures as I know them. If there is reason for dismissal within the tenants of the Church, why wait so long and why PAY them to leave?

    May 31, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • BADGUY

      The 20,000$ payout to defrocked Priests is difficult to condone when the average payout to abuse victims is 30,000 $'s (per the Milwaukee Journal, 5/31/12))

      May 31, 2012 at 3:45 pm |
    • Thinks2010

      Your question is right on point. If the Catholic Church can "fire" a priest for conduct that is not in accord with its teachings, that's what should have been done. The fact that they chose to pay off these pedophile priests suggests that their primary concern is face-saving and money saving for the church and not the trial, punishment and prevention. This smells of coverup and certainly is more of an enabling act than one that punishes.

      Isn't it interesting that the Catholic Church is ready to punish and expel american nuns whose only "sins" are being too focused social service and "promoting radical feminism" yet it continues to coverup pedophilia by transferring and often promoting bishops and cardinals who move around or payoff pedophile priests. The hypocrisy and corruption surrounding this issue is amazing and disgusting.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
  11. snowdogg

    Again... the decision makers should have asked themselves/each other "What would Jesus do"?

    May 31, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • frank


      May 31, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • DoofenPope Evil Incorporated

      When I'm out walking along and I see a fig tree, I ask myself what would Jesus do, and then I get mad at the fig tree and kill it for not having figs on it out of season.

      When I see a family, I ask myself what would Jesus do, then I go over and tell the father to abandon his family and follow Christian fundamentalism, for he will be rewarded greatly in heaven if he does.

      When I see a family that is making enough to get by, I think what would Jesus do, and I encourage to impoverish themselves and give everything to the poor.

      WWJD is just really good advice!

      May 31, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
  12. Claudia, Houston, Tx

    AKA Hush money.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
  13. Pope on a Rope

    Catholics molest little boys. Baptists want to murder gays. So how exactly do religious people have the moral high ground?

    May 31, 2012 at 3:39 pm |
    • Steve

      Not all Catholics and not all Baptists. Otherwise, good point.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:41 pm |
    • BADGUY

      Yeah...but the Catholic Church is "standing strong" against paying for it's employee's contraceptive insurance costs.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
  14. Pope on a Rope

    Catholics molest little boys. Baptists was to murder gays. So how exactly do religious people have the moral high ground?

    May 31, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
    • Kevin

      Not all do those things. Don't stereotype, come on, it's the 90s.

      Our jails are filled with people who don't believe in anything, so you probably don't want to play the numbers game.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • It's Time

      Our jails are filled with Christians. Atheists only make up about 1 or 2 percent of the prison population.
      Look it up, Kevin, you sleazeball.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      "Our jails are filled with people who don't believe in anything, so you probably don't want to play the numbers game."

      LOL omg where do you get your information from? Jails filled with people who dont believe in anything? actually if you cared to do any sort of research, you would see that Atheists make up less than 1% of the prison population, 75% christian. Try again.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:11 pm |
    • Kevin

      Yeah, they seem like the real church-going type.

      The point is that it doesn't matter. Religion or non-religion, cannot be blamed for people's actions. Twisted religion may cause people to do evil things, but those are distortions.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:35 pm |
    • Jimmy G.

      Religion CAN be blamed for a person's actions if that was the motivation behind the actions you fool!

      Religion is not based on sanity, reason, logic, or reality. Religion IS a distortion of reality itself!
      It is a delusional belief system and all it takes is the text to show some delusional person a textual justification for whatever they want to do. Without the text or dogma, it wouldn't be a religion. The religion is to blame when the religion is used as the motivation. To pretend otherwise is to show oneself a lying apologist who's only job is to cover up the crimes and the insanity and the religion itself.
      Kevin, you are a real low-life. I pity your family and whatever friends you may have. People like you are the dreck of the world.

      May 31, 2012 at 5:34 pm |
  15. Chris

    And the Rev. Dolan is attacking the nuns? The easiest way that the church could have gotten rid of the "unassignable" priests is to report them to civil authorities to prosecute them. They would not have to house the "unassignable" priests as they would be locked up in jail awaiting trial–3 hots and a cot.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:38 pm |
  16. ReaganDem

    Stay calm and reasonable. The entire Catholic Church. organization, religion, instiution, government is not bad. It has done a lot of good over so many years and it has been facing some very difficult changes internally and externally. Bashing an entire religiion because of the bad behavior of some is counter productive.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • Jimmy G.

      No it isn't.
      Getting rid of religion would clear the air and let humanity make some progress instead of constantly being stalked and harassed by a bunch of delusional idiots who think magic is real.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:35 pm |
    • Steve

      ReaganDem...I've traveled a lot of the world and I'm not sure the support they provide out weighs the damage they do. One of my memories that stands out is walking through Port au Prince and seeing the Catholic Cathedral in all its elegance surrounded by bare subsistence living. Similar observations in Mexico, Central America and South America. Birth control positions that generate populations that cannot afford to feed themselves....wish I agreed with you on this.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:46 pm |
    • LouAZ

      Bull, ReaganDen, just BS !
      You knew what was going on. Everyone in your sick catholic church(?) knew what was going on. For YEARS !
      You silence was and still is YOUR CONSENT ! To this very moment not a single one of you has ever called the police or any legal authority of any kind ANYWHERE on the planet and reported that a child is being molested by a priest. To this moment !

      May 31, 2012 at 3:48 pm |
    • Kevin

      Poor Jimmy G, so narrowly thought out.

      There are two reasons for evil in this world. Man's lust for power and limited resources. If religion (the icon for unselfishness) is not used as a cover for selfish people's actions, then something else will.

      South Park actually had an incredible episode on this very subject. Atheists warring to obtain what they want. People aren't inherently nicer if they don't believe in God.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:54 pm |
    • Jimmy G.

      Kevin, I said it would clear the air, not that it would turn everyone into unicorns. Idiot.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:00 pm |
    • Kevin

      Oh, "clear the air". That makes so much sense. So we should suppress types of thought (religion/religious philosophy) in order to become more enlightened?

      What is wrong with the tenets of Catholicism? Why should do away with all religion because one religion's administrators made serious (and unforgivable) missteps? Why cut out the legs of what so many rely upon for happiness?

      May 31, 2012 at 4:13 pm |
    • religion; a way to control the weak minded

      "Man's lust for power and limited resources. If religion (the icon for unselfishness) is not used as a cover for selfish people's actions, then something else will. "

      I hope you know that MAN wrote the bible. MAN created christianity. And MAN did all of this to control people and make money.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:17 pm |
    • Kevin

      Right, but not all men's actions are evil. Do you disagree?

      The Bible teaches selfless love. I got no beef with that. Sounds pretty cool actually. Also, Catholic teaching, a little different from many Protestant religions, is that the entire Bible is NOT to be taken literally.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:29 pm |
    • Jimmy G.

      Religious people have eyes but do not see, ears but do not hear.
      Their houses are full of ashes and their minds have been given over to liars.
      They have no moral compass of their own. They are truly lost.

      If a bible verse furthers the cause, it is to be taken literally.
      If a bible verse is detrimental to the cause, it is either: taken out of context; is allegorical; refers to another verse somewhere else; is a translation or copyist's error; means something other than what it actually says; Is a mystery of god or not discernible by humans; or is just plain magic.

      Kevin, the tenets of your religion are false tenets. They have no basis in fact, reason, logic, or reality.
      If we could clear the air and shut liars like you up once and for all, then that would be one less source of lies to delude people into doing evil things with "good" intentions.
      Again, I pity your family and whatever friends you may have: you are truly vile.

      May 31, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
    • Jim

      A challenge for ReaganDem!

      Please make a 2 column list; Column 1 the good the catholic church does, Column 2 the bad. In column 2 I suggest you place the conquest and forcible conversion of the Americas, the crusades, the burning of heretics, the opposition to science, and the cover up disused here (I'm sure others can suggest additional points)

      In column 1 Put what good you can find.

      May 31, 2012 at 6:44 pm |
  17. Kevin

    You guys still haven't shown where child abuse is a tenet of the Catholic faith. Therefore, it's not a part of the Catholic faith. It's a disgusting act performed by individuals who are not acting in line with the Catholic faith. There's really nothing arguable in the previous two sentences.

    If anything, child abuse points to an absence of belief in anything beyond the immediate's desires. An absence of belief in a higher power atheism. But I woudn't go there in terms of assigning blame.

    The point is I wouldn't blame "atheism" for an atheist's crimes, just as you guys shouldn't blame the tenets of Catholicism for any of a Catholic's crimes. You can blame the administration of the RCC, but that's different. These acts are performed by criminals. Not sure how much more plain it can get in the English language for ya. If you still don't understand, just go watch TV or stare at something shiny.

    May 31, 2012 at 3:28 pm |
    • BADGUY

      BUT..........The priesthood seems to draw and inordinate number of men who HAVE these proclivities. I think the "word" has gotten around, over the years, that if a man with these "attractions" needs a place to "hide", the Catholic priesthood is the place. It could be that the Catholic Church would run REALLY short of "volunteers" for the priesthood if it aggressively sought out and eliminated these people while they were still in the seminary. I think this whole idea of "celibacy" needs to be reviewed, modified or changed altogether. I don't think the world (Catholic AND non-Catholic) will tolerate a "pedophile magnet" like the Catholic Church has been, much longer!

      May 31, 2012 at 3:40 pm |
    • Kevin

      Good points BadGuy...RCC needs to amend its hiring protocol to ensure fewer of these guys get in. But sickos are sickos and are going to abuse a system (RCC) in order to get what they want.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:42 pm |
    • Grampa

      Kevin – Nobody's saying the Catholic Church as a whole is guilty of child abuse. But the church is quite clearly guilty of shielding the abusers, and this has been going on for some time. That is disgusting and there is no excuse to be offered.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:43 pm |
    • Jimmy G.

      It becomes a tenet by default when it is expressly supported and condoned and protected by the Pope in the official paperwork.
      When these crimes are hidden to protect the "appearance" of the RCC, then it is not only official, it becomes a tenet because it is official. He is at the top, and he is supposedly speaking on behalf of your "god".

      Hey, it's YOUR religion. I'm just pointing out that child abuse has been part and parcel of the organization as well as built into how it all works with the full knowledge, consent, and approval of your POPE.
      So saying it is not a tenet doesn't mean much. It's a part of what comes out of the Pope's mouth, a part of the RCC, and a long-standing tradition in a religion that has worshiped tradition over substance for over a thousand years.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:44 pm |
    • Kevin

      Jimmy G – should all Penn State alums be lumped in with those that condone child abuse? Ugh, those millions should be disgusted with themselves. Yikes. Slippery slope there, pal.

      The RCC's administration is different than what Catholics believe. There are Dogmas and church teachings, and there are methods of dealing (or failing to deal) with scandals. There is no "by default". Otherwise, by analogy if voted for Obama or are otherwise are a Democrat, you by default support, or condone the actions of all of his agencies. Little more complex than that.

      May 31, 2012 at 3:50 pm |
    • Jimmy G.

      Sorry, Kevin, but those analogies are false analogies.
      A university is not a religion. The football coach's words are not treated as "Holy Writ".
      And the President is not a Pope.
      His words are not treated as "Holy Writ" either regardless of whether someone votes for him or not.

      Your Pauline religion expressly puts forth the Pope as the Voice of God and that what he commands is as if God commands it, or do you deny his claim to holiness? Go ahead and deny his holiness in how child abusers are to be protected.
      Go ahead.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:01 pm |
    • hippie power 69

      but kevin, its the catholic church that is hiding and covering for these pedophiles. it is the bishops and cardinals and the pope who know all about these monsters and just keep moving them around to another parish to hurt and damage more children. then when they can't do that anymore because there is no place to move them to, they offer them money to leave. are you kidding me. that is like us paying burglars not to rob us anymore. these monsters belong in jail where they can't hurt anymore children. you want to get someone to leave the church right a way?? tell them if they are still here tomorrow you are calling the cops. i don't think too many will hold out for that $20k

      May 31, 2012 at 4:09 pm |
    • Kevin

      To clarify, I'm not a practicing Catholic. I'm an agnostic. Haven't been to church in years.

      Why is it a false analogy? Can a University stand for something in terms of what it represents (yes, it can – check a college's motto, emblem or student handbook when you get the chance)? They are to educate and turn people into something they weren't before...if they subscribe to its teachings. So, uh, yeah, I'd say Boom, but that's so 2011, and I haven't quite figured out a new "Your argument has been obliterated" punchline yet.

      It is different in the sense that yes, a religion is more significant in many lives and yes, what the Pope says goes. But what has the Pope said re: scandals (besides apologizing) that could be considered expressly approving child abuse? Nothing. But look at Georgetown. I'd view their actions in recent months, which some would say are against Catholic thought, as actually being pro-Catholic, because it seeks to question and dialogue.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:21 pm |
    • Jimmy G.

      Kevin, religions like yours seek to bar any questions and do not seek dialogue but only preach.
      And I am surprised you would pretend you are not a Catholic after all your defending of this sleazeball archbishop!

      What a baldfaced liar you are. I bet you are a pedophile rapist yourself from how hard you try to defend these rapists.

      May 31, 2012 at 5:58 pm |
  18. Burbank

    I'm sure the narcissitic and oh so vain Doctor Oz (got a face lift on the sly this year) will have the answer to this. His entire TV show is devoted to sugar coated stroking and groping of fat dumpy, desperate housewives for their "swoooooning moment" all in the name of medicine. He seems to know the answer to everything, even all about marriage and your s*x life too! I guess he would have the answer about these priests since he likes to engage in the same sort of thing. So does Oprah, she OWNs everything just like the Church! Let's ask them about it. They will have the answers! Yeah! That's the ticket!

    May 31, 2012 at 3:25 pm |
  19. Anita Bongtoke

    Does anything this criminal cult do surprise anyone?

    Bronze aged myths and superstions have no place in the real world.. sick actions, for decades, it was systemic and global in its reach..

    May 31, 2012 at 3:24 pm |
    • Kevin

      So 1-2% of the individuals employed are behaving in disgusting form and you call it a criminal cult?

      Simple minds like to classify things because their brains can't handle the fact that it may be more complex. For example, do you realize how much good the Catholic Church does for the poorest of the poor every day? Did you consider this? Probably not, because that would involve critical thinking. Blanket statements often reveal a lack of critical statements.

      Would you call an organization that people rely on for guidance and happiness evil? It's not perfect, of course, but it's been proven that there was some corruption in the NYPD and the NYFD. Those sickos - you guys agree that the NYPD and NYFD are criminal organizations, right?

      May 31, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
    • Jimmy G.

      More false analogies, Kevin? Why is it that you are so stupid? Did they hit you in the head before raping you as a child?

      May 31, 2012 at 4:14 pm |
    • Kevin

      @ Jimmy – geez, getting destroyed in arguments really aggravates you. I don't blame you.

      Also, much easier to just say it's a "false analogy" without actually addressing it. Your point is that bad apples, especially bad apples at the top, ruin the idea of apples. I say it doesn't. Poor administration, even by the Pope, wouldn't wreck the tenets of Catholicism (namely, sacrificing for others is what god wants us to do – brings happiness, yadda yadda). Those would stand regardless of what some people do.

      May 31, 2012 at 4:25 pm |
    • Jimmy G.

      I don't have to address your false analogies, Kevin. And I have yet to see where you are "winning" anywhere in this blog.

      And I don't have to explain for other people either. Anyone who is intelligent can see your lame attempts to cover up these crimes with false analogies. It's all right there. I don't have to do a thing.

      May 31, 2012 at 6:02 pm |
    • derp

      " the tenets of Catholicism (namely, sacrificing for others is what god wants us to do – brings happiness, yadda yadda)."

      And facilitating child se xu al assault.

      You kind of forgot that tenet.

      May 31, 2012 at 6:09 pm |
  20. BADGUY

    The sorry thing about all this, the Catholic Church USED to represent support for the poor and oppressed. Another Catholic Priest from Milwaukee was at the head of the protest movement for civil rights in the 1960's, Father Groppi. Whatever happened to the Catholic church I remember?

    May 31, 2012 at 3:23 pm |
    • Richard

      Father Groppi? really?

      May 31, 2012 at 3:29 pm |
    • DoofenPope Evil Incorporated

      Father Grope? What, was Father Fondle not available?

      May 31, 2012 at 3:57 pm |
    • derp

      Father Banganalterboyfrombehind was busy as well.

      May 31, 2012 at 6:16 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.