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. JPX

    Oh gee what a surprise, pedophiles are once again protected by the church. Never trust men who wear dresses and funny hats. I wouldn't let my kid within 200 yards of a catholic priest. You have to ask yourself, what kind of person would be attracted to a life of celibacy, magic and make-believe?

    May 31, 2012 at 5:57 pm |
    • Judas Priest

      An animator for Walt Disney. Next asinine remark please.

      May 31, 2012 at 6:04 pm |
    • derp

      "An animator for Walt Disney. Next asinine remark please."

      Walt Disney's animators were all celibate (with the exception of little boys)?

      Next asinine remark please.

      May 31, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
  2. abbydelabbey

    from the same folks who brought you the Spanish Inquisition, torture and burning people at the stake -

    seems like some things never change -

    and the Catholic Church has the audacity to think it has the right to dictate reproductive choices to people ...

    May 31, 2012 at 5:54 pm |
  3. ELH

    Those who enable a child abuse should themselves be subject to the same legal sanctions as those that they enabled.

    Pedophiles should be imprisoned for life, no parole and placed in the general population with no privileges. The same goes for anyone that aided, abetted or otherwise made it possible for the pedophile to satisfy their warped cravings.

    May 31, 2012 at 5:48 pm |
    • abbydelabbey

      I agree.

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

      So does this means they got paid to abuse children ?

      May 31, 2012 at 6:29 pm |
    • derp

      "So does this means they got paid to abuse children ?"

      Ding!!! We have a winner.

      Catholics should think about that before they toss another fiver in the "pay priests to f uc k little kids" basket.

      May 31, 2012 at 6:31 pm |
  4. The Contentious Otter

    So, according to the Catholic Church, requiring the church to pay for a woman's birth control is "A war against religion", but bribing a pedophile to make himself scarce is Approved Procedure?

    May 31, 2012 at 5:37 pm |
    • MashaSobaka

      It's called hypocrisy. Religion seems to be fond of it. Catholicism in particular.

      May 31, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  5. Asturiano

    Those Old While Men in Robes just don't get it. Criminal activity is not to be rewarded but should be prosecuted.

    May 31, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Highland

      Not only the old "while", but the old black ones too.

      May 31, 2012 at 5:41 pm |
    • Andy

      and they need to drink cider and eat una buena favada.

      May 31, 2012 at 5:55 pm |
  6. Faye62

    Why anyone would still want to be a Catholic anymore is beyond me... Find a new faith to worship with.. They are being punished for worshiping Mary and other angels... It's an occult. LEAVE ..In these last days, all darkness is being exposed.. 9/11/01 & 9/18/08 weren't accidents. (18-11= 7 and 2008-2001= 7)

    May 31, 2012 at 5:32 pm |
    • Judas Priest

      I'll decline your generous offer. Follow your own path down into darkness, would you please? And be quick about it. Thanks so much.

      May 31, 2012 at 6:06 pm |
  7. Snow

    Church pays folks for their wrong doing and then tries to trying to hush it up.. hmm, why isn't it surprising..

    It makes me wonder what all other heinous crimes did it successfully hushed up.. and what else happens behind the closed doors of a church

    May 31, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
  8. Rosslaw

    The Catholic Church loved the distraction provided by the Obama plan to have their health insurance provide contraceptive coverage to its non-church employees. You would think that they have some sort of moral foundation on which to claim victimhood. Obstruction of justice over decades, conspiracy, child molesting, none of which has stopped. This country needs to put some bishops in prison doing hard time. That the church as learned nothing is shown by the "men" dressed in pointing red slippers are now in the process of subordinating the Catholic nuns who hold that edifice together and likely put some brakes on the abuse.

    May 31, 2012 at 5:26 pm |
  9. Colin

    I am about as aniti-Catholic as it gets, but I see nothing wrong with this. Standard procedure for any fired employee, even of a relgious denomination.

    May 31, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • samptechs

      "Standard procedure for any fired employee?" There is a more-than-subtle difference between getting fired for stealing office supplies than for buggering an altar boy.

      May 31, 2012 at 5:42 pm |
    • Highland

      No, standard practice every where but the Catholic Church is that abusers and pedophiles are arrested.

      May 31, 2012 at 5:44 pm |
    • derp

      "Standard procedure for any fired employee, even of a relgious denomination"

      If iI f uc k one of my customer kids, I don't think I'm getting a $20K golden parachute.

      I think I'm getting handcuffs.

      May 31, 2012 at 6:33 pm |
  10. Reality

    One more nail in RCC's coffin as noted below:

    Recognizing the flaws, follies and frauds in the foundations of Islam, Judaism and Christianity, the "bowers", kneelers" and "pew peasants" are converging these religions into some simple rules of life. No koran, bible, clerics, nuns, monks, imams, evangelicals, ayatollahs, rabbis, professors of religion or priests needed or desired.

    Ditto for houses of "worthless worship" aka mosques, churches, basilicas, cathedrals, temples and synagogues.

    May 31, 2012 at 5:24 pm |
    • JPX

      One more example that illustrates how religion poisons everything.

      May 31, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  11. mikeM

    The Muslims do things better. When they find people doing the wrong thing, they cut body parts or kill them. It's quicker and more effective. Catholics have gotten soft after the Inquisition.

    May 31, 2012 at 5:18 pm |
  12. FL Jimmy

    20 grand for hush money.... getting to the truth about this "organization", priceless.

    May 31, 2012 at 5:12 pm |
    • Highland

      If it isn't, a bribe to cover criminal activities should result in people being arrested.

      May 31, 2012 at 5:46 pm |
  13. X-opher

    Nothing less than the complete capitulation of the Catholic Church will suffice, at this point. They are now known more as a safe haven for pedophiles than for anything else.

    May 31, 2012 at 5:08 pm |
    • mikeM

      And for allowing people like Pelosi to call themselves Catholics. And for helping illegal aliens into this country.

      May 31, 2012 at 5:23 pm |
    • JPX


      May 31, 2012 at 5:59 pm |
  14. Fluffy the Gerbil of Doom

    Jolly Timmy ain't so jolly today.

    May 31, 2012 at 5:06 pm |
  15. Russ

    Does this really surprise anyone by now? These pedophiles go from city to city and if they molest enough they get bought out to go become youth counselors. You would think that the church would be more concerned about the kids... but alas I think they are much more concerned about their church.

    May 31, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
  16. Emerald Laughter

    When will this terrorist organization be brought to justice?

    May 31, 2012 at 4:54 pm |
  17. Patti

    The Catholic church is the epitome of evil. What kind of religion promotes an archbishop to cardinal after attending a meeting to pay a pedophile to leave the church!?
    A required bumper stickers for all church vehicles should be "We Make Payouts to Pedophiles."
    To any Catholics that can read the news, I implore you to stop supporting this organization.

    As for the the child molesters and those who transferred them, they should be getting their food and clothes in prison.

    May 31, 2012 at 4:49 pm |
    • anagram _kid

      Because it is not a religion it is a business –with two major product lines:
      1) Afterlife insurance. This used to be more important when death was possibly a bug bite, cough, cut or sip of water away.
      2) A lifetime pass to behave in a way that one knows is wrong but can excuse by saying they follow the teachings of someone who was a better human than they are. Being dishonest, hateful, jealous, greedy, selfish and even criminal are all OK, because their imaginary friend in the sky loves them no matter what.
      Since it is a business its primary goal is to make money. The string of bad employees is just the cost of doing business. Pretty sad when even the almighty can’t get good help.

      May 31, 2012 at 5:25 pm |
  18. John

    I am a Catholic and proud to be. I am married and have two little ones and have seen abuse since I was little in the Church. Please remember that over 99% of priests in the US do not engage in this deplorable and reprehensible horrific acts and you don't have to hate the bride of Christ, His Church, if you hate such acts. There is a separation.

    May 31, 2012 at 4:48 pm |
    • Patti

      Please remember the church knowingly has transferred hundreds of priest who have molested and sodomized thousands of children and it has cost them BILLIONS. It should also cost them every single last one of their parishioners!

      May 31, 2012 at 4:52 pm |
    • anagram _kid

      Would you leave your little ones alone with a priest?

      May 31, 2012 at 5:27 pm |
    • Lol

      "Please remember that over 99% of priests in the US do not engage in this deplorable and reprehensible horrific acts"
      Yeah, right....................

      May 31, 2012 at 5:43 pm |
    • littlelassie

      Maybe only 1% of the priests have engaged in this type of behavior (although the number is suspect), but the fact that the Catholic Church endangered children by denying, protecting, covering up and compensating for the pedophile 1% (?) doesn't inspire a lot of confidence in the hypocritical moral authority stance. The very fact that the Church was more concerned with the PR fallout than the devastation the CRIMINAL acts that their priests perpetuated negates any claim to being the conduits to God and faith. The Church has lost all moral authority to preach against what is an acceptable lifestyle choice when they allowed priests to rampantly violate their flock, unchecked and unacknowledged.

      May 31, 2012 at 7:46 pm |
  19. AgrippaMT

    Bishop, now Cardinal Dolan, needs to be put on trial and jailed for his crimes.

    May 31, 2012 at 4:46 pm |
  20. sharkfisher

    S.C. public schools must be related to the catholic church. I know of a case of physical abuse of a 9 year old boy by ateacher in an a teacher following instructions of another teacher in Aiken S.C. The parents went to the school ,the county school board and the state school board and got the run around from all three. Child abuse is not limited to the Catholic church. It's rampant in the S.C. public schools.

    May 31, 2012 at 4:45 pm |
    • Patti

      But a religious organization doing this in the name of God makes the horrible unconscionable and unforgivable.

      May 31, 2012 at 5:01 pm |
    • MashaSobaka

      It's rampant everywhere, actually.

      May 31, 2012 at 5:47 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.