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. Atheism is not healthy for children and other living things

    Prayer changes things

    June 1, 2012 at 8:00 pm |
    • Jesus

      Prayer doesn’t not; you are such a LIAR. You have NO proof it changes anything! A great example of prayer proven not to work is the Christians in jail because prayer didn't work and their children died. For example: Susan Grady, who relied on prayer to heal her son. Nine-year-old Aaron Grady died and Susan Grady was arrested.

      An article in the Journal of Pediatrics examined the deaths of 172 children from families who relied upon faith healing from 1975 to 1995. They concluded that four out of five ill children, who died under the care of faith healers or being left to prayer only, would most likely have survived if they had received medical care.

      The statistical studies from the nineteenth century and the three CCU studies on prayer are quite consistent with the fact that humanity is wasting a huge amount of time on a procedure that simply doesn’t work. Nonetheless, faith in prayer is so pervasive and deeply rooted, you can be sure believers will continue to devise future studies in a desperate effort to confirm their beliefs!

      June 4, 2012 at 10:53 am |
  2. 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 1, 2012 at 12:36 am |
  3. Dorkus

    Ha-ha! And some still proudly call themselves catholics. Get off my planet, NOW!

    May 31, 2012 at 10:00 pm |
    • KeninTexas

      Why don't you take a crap and fall back in it. Putz!

      May 31, 2012 at 10:15 pm |
  4. JesusChrist Son of God Son of Mary Brother to the Holy Ghost

    Interesting number $20,000. Wonder who came up with that number, in addition to the rationalization that sweeping them out of the church was better than turning them over to the police for prosecution. I hope the catholic church will soon implode from this continual flow of what the church would call sin.

    I would like to put all the priests on an ark, start sailing to a distant land, and let it sink halfway out. Would make a good story to add to the bible.

    May 31, 2012 at 9:50 pm |
    • mariner I

      Good idea. Give that man a cigar!

      May 31, 2012 at 9:58 pm |
    • miketofdal

      It would've been a lot cheaper to deliver the pedophiles to the local police.

      May 31, 2012 at 10:11 pm |
  5. ןןɐq ʎʞɔnq


    May 31, 2012 at 9:32 pm |
  6. rb

    Is that not what the 3rd Fatima prophesy is about, the apostate catholic church, the corruption, and the devils that lead it? theri time is over. The church as we know it is over. Stop supporting them and it will be over

    May 31, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • karenfern1

      Back in the 13th century, Joaquim of Floris pointed to the rampant corruption of the Medieval church and said that the real church was in the world to come where it would be safe from the predatory behavior he was observing. He preceded Faustina by about 600 years but he certainly is being upheld by what's going on now.

      June 1, 2012 at 6:28 pm |
  7. walklikeman

    The church is a farce. The whole concept of denying the priest to marry caused all of this madness. To deny a man or woman their natural state of existence is in itself evil and morally incorrect. God intended for man and every species to procreate. As long as you have this sick protocol you will have countless victims. To bring it under a considerable amount of control allow the nuns and priest to marry and be harmonious with nature.

    May 31, 2012 at 9:05 pm |
  8. Viva Il Papa

    "CNN's ratings problems just keep getting worse."

    "The network had its lowest-rated month in over a decade in April. That prompted stern warnings from the top that CNN has to improve its numbers."

    "Yet Tuesday brought the dispiriting news that CNN had its lowest-rated week in primetime in a staggering 20 years last week. Just 395,000 people tuned in to watch Anderson Cooper and Piers Morgan. The total day numbers were not much better: CNN had its third-worst week since 1997."

    HAHAHAAHAHAHAHA Where will all you haters go when there is no more CNN ???? Hahahahahahahaaaaa No one believes their reporting except the trolls here.

    May 31, 2012 at 9:04 pm |
    • miketofdal

      well, you're trolling very nicely, along with the rest of us.

      May 31, 2012 at 9:23 pm |
    • Chris


      May 31, 2012 at 9:27 pm |
    • Frank

      Sorry that it upsets you so when your pedophile infested cult is exposed. Well....that's just too bad. Someone has to save your children from the rapists you support.

      May 31, 2012 at 9:35 pm |
    • Pietra

      Are you implying that this story is untrue? Perhaps you are in denial. Even Dolan acknowledges that the truth came out in the course of uncovering meeting minutes during banruptcy proceedings. The truth is difficult to face, but unless those who support this organization face reality, there will be more victims. Are you aware of the baby stealing in Spain? The mobster buried in a Vatican City cemetery – with 200 canisters of as yet unidentified bones?!! The money laundering? I could go on and on. Yet, Obama is giving them even more money than Bush gave. $2.9 billion to Catholic Charities per year – and, Dolan just about threatened to cut back on charitable work because Obama thinks women should be able to obtain birth control, and The Church would not to have to put a penny toward the cost of the contraceptives. Something's wrong here. I'd prefer it if my tax dollars went to a more deserving charities. He wants to be left alone? Let's do it!

      June 1, 2012 at 11:09 am |
    • Which God?

      @ viva la poopa. A troll calling us trolls?

      June 1, 2012 at 2:09 pm |
  9. Jonathan

    The Catholic church is a criminal enterprise and should be prosecuted by US law as one.

    May 31, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • mariner I

      Absolutely. Take away their tax exempt status as well. Biggets con job of the centuries and we let them pay no taxes because they do the lord's work. I do more for the cause then they do and I still get banged more taxes than anyone should pay. Tag em and Tax em. Get rid of them forever so they don't get another opportunity to screw up the next generation of our children with their brand of BS.

      May 31, 2012 at 10:03 pm |
  10. stevem7

    Yep, pay off the scandal and bury it and the reward? Why the Red Hat of course.

    May 31, 2012 at 8:31 pm |
  11. Fidelio

    Roll up, roll up! All the bigots are out to play!
    Patrick Wall says in "His estimation" payouts mean one thing – abuse. WRONG. They pay out priests who womanise; who won't obey their superiors or are gay. There's far more than one reason.

    And by the way – Patrick Wall covered in parishes where there were abusing priests for 8 years before he grew a spine and realised he could make lots of money as a lawyer taking clerics who "covered up " to court!

    During the 8 years he was 'obeying his superiors' and willingly covering for abusing priests HE was responsible for many more children being abused.
    He alleges that he told worried parents in confession "It's not YOUR fault" Why the hell didn't he tell them to get to the police pdq and REPORT it? Like I said – he needs to get off the moral high ground and admit HIS guilt.

    May 31, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • buddhabill

      Oh, OK. So I guess since the author may have multiple motives that it makes the actions of the Catholic Church leadership perfectly acceptable then.

      That's what you are saying, right?

      When all you can do is to attack the messanger, you have already lost and are just proving the point even further.

      May 31, 2012 at 8:40 pm |
    • sam

      Your efforts to defend your church are beginning to look a little frantic....

      June 1, 2012 at 3:32 pm |
  12. Interested48

    The sooner these criminals are behind bars, the better.

    May 31, 2012 at 8:30 pm |
    • buckeyenonbeliever

      Cardinal Dolan, please do continue to lecture all of us heathens how immoral we all are. How were charges never filed on this criminal?

      Hypocrisy never smelled so foul!

      May 31, 2012 at 8:44 pm |
  13. Eric

    You don't need to financially care for them if you'd just take that credible evidence to the police and have those perverts put in prison for life. But it's not about that. Rather it's about protecting church assets from being taken by church victims. Nothing else.

    May 31, 2012 at 8:18 pm |
    • KeninTexas

      Read it again more closely. "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." ,,,, They said they were doing it to rid the church of these offenders quicker. Not just to get them to go away or hide their crimes. They should still have been punished.

      May 31, 2012 at 9:57 pm |
    • miketofdal

      @kenintexas: Read it again, yourself: The church went out of its way, fiscally, to ensure that pedophiles weren't punished.

      May 31, 2012 at 10:29 pm |
    • KeninTexas

      miketofdal ,,,,You need to read it yourself. No where does it say that or even imply what you say. They have enough mud on them from their own actions or inactions, without your trying to claim they have done even more.

      May 31, 2012 at 11:07 pm |
    • What

      There has never been anything to keep the victims from going to the police, no matter what the Church does.

      June 1, 2012 at 2:01 am |
  14. Laurence Ringo

    Wow and wow again!!!Really,can the so-called"Roman Catholic Church"sink any lower?When I hear catholics actually attempt to defend the insanity of this criminal organization,it makes me want to gag;expect Bill Donahue to pop up any minute now.He's always bloviating about"The Church's enemies",both real and imagined;well guess what Mr.Donahue?No one could be a worst enemy to your church than it is to itself!In all my years of studying history,only atheist regimes such as Mao's Communist China,Stalin's Russia,and Hitler's Nazi Germany has wreaked more havoc,ruin,and calamity upon humanity than Roman Catholicism.Frankly,how any so-called catholic can remain so literally defies logic;in this case the freethinkers have a point;these religious people are dumber than a box of rocks,mindless sheep led by their noses into parking their brains at their church house doors!

    May 31, 2012 at 8:14 pm |
  15. Richard "BONEHEAD" Cheney

    Listecki demanded kick backs from the payouts! You just gotta love those Roman Catholics,

    May 31, 2012 at 7:58 pm |
  16. gary

    RCC is dangerous cult, bloated with money sucking layers of bureaucracy. It's not about religion, it's about power, bling, control and more power. Read "God's Jury" by Murphy. End the RCC as was ended the reign of Nazi's in Germany.

    May 31, 2012 at 7:53 pm |
  17. Whome

    The Vatican i.e. the catholic church has no creditability at all, what a sad state of affairs and how unfortunate for the true believers and people who have been duped into devoting their lives and treasures to the church. I believe in God but I feel I don't need to have someone intercede on my behalf. My sins are my sins and I will have to answer for them when I'm dead.

    May 31, 2012 at 7:48 pm |
  18. Freedom From Religion

    The leaders of this church lose credibility every day . . . WHO still goes to the Catholic church and donates money to keep it going . . and WHY in light of all that we know about its "leaders" and the child molesters they refer to as "priests" and other dignified words?

    May 31, 2012 at 7:47 pm |
  19. miketofdal

    This is how God uses the money that His Chosen People put into the collection plates? He gives $20,000 to men who steal the innocence of children in an effort to cover it up? God isn't real, is He? To believe in Him requires a complete suspension of disbelief and logic, and some ignorance. How can I sincerely WORSHIP a God that allows such atrocities – such criminal behavior – against children to go on IN HIS NAME. Believe me...if Christianity/Catholicism had come to America on the Mayflower, as retail businesses, they would have closed long ago, failing to meet the "moneychangers' " expectations in the first quarter of 1621.

    May 31, 2012 at 7:45 pm |
    • Fidelio

      Grow up. God gave man FREE will. THEY choose to abuse innocent children. To blame God is to let the perpetrators off the hook. Maybe that's what YOU really want? In which case you're as bad as they are.

      May 31, 2012 at 8:33 pm |
    • ןןɐq ʎʞɔnq

      There are no gods, and there is no free will. Time for a new paradigm.

      May 31, 2012 at 8:50 pm |
    • 0G-No gods, ghosts, goblins or ghouls

      Fedelio, grow up – there are no gods, not even just one!

      May 31, 2012 at 8:53 pm |
    • miketofdal

      @fidelio – I beg to differ: free will implies the freedom to live without input from external forces...that would – and should – include input from God. Ask yourself this question: How does that free will stuff work when the church tells you what to think, believe and feel?

      May 31, 2012 at 9:19 pm |
    • Frank

      Why is it that only the child rapists in your pedophile infested cult are the ones with free will but the children they rape do not have free will and must accept the attack from your pedophile priests?

      May 31, 2012 at 9:30 pm |
    • derp

      Leave it to PedoFildelio to let his sky wizard off the hook. I thought the big scary sky fairy controlled everything. Oh, that's right, he only controls things when they turn out good.

      June 1, 2012 at 9:37 am |
    • sam

      @bucky – you can't use a big word like 'paradigm' in front of folks like Fidelio. Her head will explode.

      June 1, 2012 at 3:34 pm |
  20. Drew Miller

    And according to the vatican it's the nuns that are the problem in America.

    May 31, 2012 at 7:43 pm |
    • mariner I

      Gee what a surprise, you've got a bunch of pedophiles and misogynistic clerics pointing out where the real problem is. It's the woman. Guess who started the war on woman? Yup, "The Church!!!" I think it has something to do with the reality that woman bring us into the world, and now the church has to deal with all of the problems that exist in the world. Obviously they would prefer for all of us to not come into the world and they resent woman for making it possible. That's why they go after the kids, so they can control them, since they have had problems controlling woman from the 60's forward. Screw em........you go girls!!!

      May 31, 2012 at 10:13 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.