February 21st, 2013
08:50 PM ET

Milwaukee lawsuits shadow N.Y. archbishop

By Ted Rowlands and Kathleen Johnston, CNN

(CNN)–He's the top Roman Catholic figure in the United States, the head of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and one of the princes of the church who will decide on a new pope.

But Cardinal Timothy Dolan, the archbishop of New York, is now under fire for how his old archdiocese in Milwaukee shifted money as it faced lawsuits by victims of sexual abuse by priests in Wisconsin.

Dolan sat for a deposition with lawyers for some of the victims on Wednesday, the New York archdiocese confirmed. He was Milwaukee's archbishop from 2002 to 2009, a period in which the archdiocese moved $55 million into a fund for cemetery maintenance and as much as $74 million to a fund for individual parishes.

Dolan "made a conscious decision to secretly and in a quite sinister way to move funds into parishes and transfer funds into other corporations to avoid having to pay the survivors," Jeff Anderson, a lawyer for some of the abuse victims, told CNN.

Dolan declined an interview with CNN for this report. But in a 2011 interview with a New York television station, he called the allegations "ludicrous."

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But the Rev. Jim Connell, the former vice chancellor of the Milwaukee archdiocese, said the church needs a directive from the very top to come clean.

"There is a sense of secrecy from a top level," said Connell, now retired. "And I would hope that starting with the holy father, Benedict XVI, he would tell the cardinals and tell the bishops to talk."

The worldwide church has spent years dealing with the fallout from its handling of priests accused of sexually abusing children, and Anderson said the Milwaukee archdiocese "has been particularly deceitful." Wisconsin state law blocked lawsuits by most victims of sexual abuse for years, which protected the church. When that changed, lawyers for the victims say, the archdiocese began preparing for court by moving its money.

The archdiocese declared bankruptcy in 2011 when faced with lawsuits by hundreds of potential victims. In December, a bankruptcy court judge found that the timing of the 2005 transfer to the Parish Deposit Fund appeared "fishy," but ultimately decided that the move was justified: The money belonged to individual parishes, not the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, Judge Susan Kelley ruled.

A creditors' committee pointed to minutes from a 2003 meeting of the archdiocese's finance committee that discussed whether to set up a fund to "shelter" the Parish Deposit Fund. But Kelley said that sentence "does not necessarily constitute the smoking gun" that proves the church was trying to shield money from the victims.

Church officials argued the $55 million transfer to the cemetery fund, in 2007, was needed and came from people who paid for burial plots in eight Catholic cemeteries, expecting perpetual care for the grave sites.

"The obligation to maintain the cemeteries never ends," said William Duffin, an attorney representing the cemetery fund. "No one knows for sure how much is enough."

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Kelley has yet to rule on the question of whether the transfer to the cemetery fund was proper. But Marquette University law professor Ralph Anzivino said that if the archdiocese was moving money around to hide it from abuse victims, it may have broken the law.

"That is what's called a fraudulent conveyance under the law," Anzivino said. "You can't, in anticipation of insolvency, transfer assets away from yourself for your own benefit and lessen what the creditors are entitled to."

A win for the victims could mean that they would not only get a share of the cemetery trust fund, but a share of future earnings from the sale of grave sites. A win for the church could lay out a blueprint for the other dioceses now grappling with lawsuits themselves and could cement Dolan's reputation in the eyes of the Vatican as the guardian of the American church.

Dolan is among the cardinals who will choose a new pope after the resignation of Benedict XVI. The cardinal himself was a 33-1 longshot for the papacy as of last week, according to one British bookmaker.

Milwaukee's Chapter 11 proceedings already have led to the discovery that in 2003, he approved payments of $20,000 to get abusive priests to leave the church. The Milwaukee archdiocese confirmed that it had offered the payoffs as "the most expedient and cost-effective way" to get rid of molesters.

The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests urged Dolan to allow his Wednesday deposition to be open to the public rather than placed under seal: "The 570 victims of priest sex offenders who filed cases, Catholics of the Milwaukee Archdiocese, and the public deserve to read and see Dolan's testimony."

And they're not the only ones calling for openness. Connell said the church needs to "open up, let it all be known."

"It's the love of money that translates into greed, that is the root of all evils," Connell said. "And that seems to be what I see is playing out in this situation.

"What's under the lid?" he asked. "What's being hidden? How embarrassing can it be?"

CNN's Elizabeth Nunez contributed to this report.

- CNN Belief Blog

Filed under: Belief • Bishops • Catholic Church

soundoff (240 Responses)
  1. justice

    this reminds me of history..

    It is much like the KKK in the south years ago. The judge and jury were KKK members, victims denied. Here we have cathaholics.

    February 22, 2013 at 5:45 pm |
  2. GT

    I have a potential solution to the church's pedophile priest problem. Don't ever let your child be alone with a priest.

    February 22, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • Bill Deacon

      What about public schools where the problem is 50-100 times worse?

      February 22, 2013 at 5:48 pm |
    • justice

      actually in schools, pedophilia is rare. Abuse of older kids does happen often in public schools at about the same % as in catholic schools.

      Pedophilia accounts for over 40% of abuses in catholic schools.

      And teachers are heroes for blowing in fellow pedos. And when a child is found to be abused, that child is more often given immediate medical attention. However in the catholic church, clergy is a hero for protecting the pedo. and they deny the child, many times with threats.

      You might also note that teachers WANT to pass laws that would expose pedos and the cover ups while the catholic church lobby to stop those laws from passing. That's a tell-all.

      February 22, 2013 at 6:19 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Piper's Son

      Why are you so fvcking stupid, Bill?

      February 22, 2013 at 7:04 pm |
    • sam stone

      what's the matter, billy boy? the good father not give you the common courtesy of a reach around? as far as i can tell, schools do not claim to be a moral authority, nor do they claim the superintendant is god's prime b1tch here on earth. let's talk about how cardinal law has evaded the law, or how about st. pedophila shifts the grabby grabby touchy touchy priests onto other unsuspecting parishes?

      February 22, 2013 at 7:12 pm |
    • Hike Muckabee

      Dill Beacon strikes again

      February 22, 2013 at 7:15 pm |
    • I mean it's not like they're going to be needing them

      They have taken a "sacred vow to god" that they will be celibate for the rest of their lives. So just cut their geni-tals off. I mean it's not like they're going to be needing them

      February 22, 2013 at 9:50 pm |
    • Bs Bill Deacon

      Of course if you are counting RCC operated public schools the problem would be about the same, leave them out and the problem almost disappears. Billy you make one poor paranoid martyr. I know most RCC operated schools are not public, just saying.

      February 23, 2013 at 6:37 am |
  3. ironman59

    Dolan new exactly what he was doing with moving funds. It should be prosecuted to the fullest extent of the law. The problem is that if he is transferred to the Vatican as part of the new papacy he cannot be touched. Since we do not have diplomatic relations with the vatican. Simple fact is that this is another sign of the damage religion does at all levels of society. I grew up catholic, had family that was clergy and they would be as discussed by this as I am. It's time to end all religion for the benefit of mankind.

    February 22, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
  4. starrface

    Just heard the pope is guy and he has been covering up for all the other guys in the church and that's why he's quitting his day job. Wow, what a bunch of "holy men".

    February 22, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
  5. Guest

    Religion. shudders

    February 22, 2013 at 4:50 pm |
  6. Mark Roberts

    The sad part is , The pope is already elected .. the general public just doesnt know .

    February 22, 2013 at 4:44 pm |
    • cnnmembuh

      Even if that were so, on what basis do you complain? This is not a democracy in which you can cast your vote.

      February 22, 2013 at 4:47 pm |
  7. Dolores

    I come from a long line of Catholics. I am ashamed of the entire Catholic Church. There is no excuse for this type of cover up. The Poe, Cardinals and all levels of the Church MUST reveal their sins – seek forgiveness and pay the price for their sins. That is what they preach and that is what they MUST do. Everyone from the pope on downward – EVERYONE. i do not see how the Catholic Church can survice if they do not do this.

    February 22, 2013 at 4:40 pm |
    • anne

      the pope did apologize. what else could he possibly do? I am not being smart I am seriously asking. Do you just want all the cardinals to step down?

      February 22, 2013 at 4:51 pm |
    • vad

      I too am ashamed to call myself Catholic as of late. Church officials that obstruct investigations, hiding money, protecting pedophile priests by sending them away when allegations are made. Not to mention Catholic hospitals who won a court decision by arguing a fetus is NOT alive. It appears the Catholic Church is willing to sell it's values just as long as it means money in the Church Coffers. I can't even defend them by saying that this all happened in the distant past. To all you Catholic critics out there, I say "Blast away with your criticism." The Catholic Church has earned it.

      February 22, 2013 at 5:00 pm |
    • justice

      if only Charlie Manson knew he only needed an apology and to pray for victims, he wouldn't be in jail today.

      The pope, bishops and cardinals harmed and murdered children world wide.

      Murdered, I said? Yes. many children were threatened and left to cope alone as these criminals protected their own reputation over the lives of children. As a result of the abuses, many children became mentally ill and others committed suicide. I call that murder.

      February 22, 2013 at 5:01 pm |
    • Doobs

      @ anne

      "What else could he possibly do?"

      Are you kidding me? He could start by turning over the files of every priest that's been accused of harming a child to the police, and let them be tried for the crimes they committed. At a minimum, he could have the decency to do that.

      February 22, 2013 at 5:07 pm |
    • justice

      doobs,, he can't do that because they all have something on one another.. They are no more than a bunch of juvenile delinquents who never grew up. Pope included.

      February 22, 2013 at 5:11 pm |
    • Athy

      Why don't you Catholics just leave the church and become atheists? That makes the most sense to me. A dwindling membership would certainly get the abusers' attention. And you would be free of the shakles of religious nonsense.

      February 22, 2013 at 6:56 pm |
    • Tom, Tom, the Other One

      Freemasonry is your solution. The RCC will excommunicate you and you'll learn how the pyramids were built. Win win.

      February 22, 2013 at 7:02 pm |
    • sam stone

      anne: he could turn all accused pedo priests over to the civil authorities for investigation

      February 22, 2013 at 7:16 pm |
  8. Douglas

    Gay priest ring busted at the Vatican!


    Insist on an end to the sin of gay coitus and its corrosive effect on childen and adults.

    There is salvation now...through celibacy!

    February 22, 2013 at 4:39 pm |

    • Come out of the closet Douglas and learn the difference between being gay and pedophilia.

      February 22, 2013 at 4:53 pm |
    • OK

      Presidents have been adulterers!


      Adultery and Divorce should be illegal but Douglas is only consumed with gay sex.

      =======> (_|_)

      February 22, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
    • justice

      gay and pedo,, are by all means NOT the same.

      February 22, 2013 at 5:03 pm |
    • sam

      Idiot troll.

      February 22, 2013 at 5:10 pm |
    • ..

      Douglas, you ignorant little cunt. This is from your own fucking source:

      “This is not about homosexuality,” Abbate told The Daily Beast when he published the expose. “This is about private vices and public virtues. This is about serious hypocrisy in the Catholic Church."
      They were with male prostitutes, you hysterical old woman, NOT with children. You still have not learned the difference between being gay and being a pedophile, you are still obsessed with gay sex, and your continued use of "gay coitus" as your catch phrase paints you as a deeply conflicted personality.
      You have no credibility left, Coitusboy. Change to another one of your troll names and fuck off.

      February 22, 2013 at 5:32 pm |
    • ..

      And fucking celibacy is what YOU claimed drove the priests to do what they did in the first place, so I find it laughable that you want to impose celibacy on even more people, you goddamned moron, contributing to the problem, according to YOU...asshat.

      February 22, 2013 at 5:38 pm |
  9. Mopedo

    Only Islam & Christianity cults have pedophiles as their leaders & prophets.

    February 22, 2013 at 4:33 pm |
  10. Meatwad

    I saw at catlick on some T.V. show about strange addictions. Not for me ya'll, so sir.

    February 22, 2013 at 4:30 pm |
  11. Alias

    I don't believe this is about the money. It is about the church covering up as many crimes as possible to save what is left of their reputation and followers.

    February 22, 2013 at 4:23 pm |
  12. RoyGbiv

    " Jesus promised the End of all wicked people. Odin promised the End of all frost giants.......I don't see many frost giants around."

    February 22, 2013 at 4:13 pm |
  13. Jeebus Chreebus

    The Catholic church is and has always been run by pedophiles, perverts, thieves, and the criminals who protect them.

    One must have to check their brain at the door to continue to belong to such a church.

    February 22, 2013 at 3:52 pm |
    • Todd

      Or to post a message on a CNN board.

      February 22, 2013 at 4:07 pm |
    • Jeebus Chreebus

      Check your brain at the door Todd?

      February 22, 2013 at 4:19 pm |
    • rablogan

      And your knowledge is based on actual experience as one of the offenders that you talk about or is it more likely based upon the completely unreliable hearsay of the media?? It is statements such as yours that provide credence to the very wise quote from Proverbs " As a dog returns to his vomit, so a fool repeats his folly".

      February 22, 2013 at 4:26 pm |
    • justice

      Yes jeebus,, as a victim and know many other victims.. There isn't a single diocese in the US where pedophilia and the cover ups didn't exists in multi-tudes. And as we are finding out with this organization, their crimes are world wide.

      February 22, 2013 at 5:06 pm |
    • JJ

      It takes religion to make an otherwise decent person support child rapists. I find supporters of this pedophile infested cult most repugnant.

      February 22, 2013 at 5:20 pm |
    • ..

      Rablogan, completely ignoring the cries of raped children since baptism. Pedophile apologist.

      February 22, 2013 at 5:42 pm |
  14. Austin

    It's not the church. It is the fathers and priesthood who don't marry. And the demonic attack on this situation that exploits the weakness and is a satanic parade.

    February 22, 2013 at 3:49 pm |
    • justice

      it's a dishonest organization since birth. Wealth gained by fraud. Money to feed starving children became money for material growth.

      February 22, 2013 at 3:51 pm |
    • TKO

      It is, in fact, the Church. And it is the Church that is Satanic–Satan, they say, is the Great Actor, the Grand Deceiver, and he misleads the ones who believe themselves moral but who are painted mausoleums. Satan operates by convincing those in positions of authority that they are being attacked, and that anything they do is thereby justified. He turns them into evil personified, all the while letting them think they are victims, are holy, are persecuted. Disgusting.

      February 22, 2013 at 4:00 pm |
    • sam stone

      oooh....satanic.....how scary

      February 22, 2013 at 4:54 pm |
  15. Jay Shapiro

    Why don't these lawsuits and the facts that have become public immediately disqualify Dolan from consideration? Because the Church perverts the justice system (not that it officially recognizes any law except church law) snd does not care about the victims of the system it perpetuates.

    February 22, 2013 at 3:37 pm |
    • justice

      the catholic church is about secrecy, hiding. That alone demonstrates dishonesty.

      February 22, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
  16. ya

    Tax free millions,.... ohh I wish I was a priest

    February 22, 2013 at 3:09 pm |
    • frankb2910

      I think Jesus Christ is an adults Santa Claus.

      February 22, 2013 at 3:46 pm |
    • In Santa we trust

      Start your own religion, sell it to a bunch of sheep, collect 10% from said sheep. Tax-free. Nice little earner. If your ethics allow you to live as a parasite, you'll have it made.

      February 22, 2013 at 3:48 pm |
  17. cricket

    Who's the new peterpuller going to be?

    February 22, 2013 at 3:01 pm |
  18. Jesus Montoya

    Sounds like this guy has all the key skills needed to be the next Pope. Pope Tim gets my vote.

    February 22, 2013 at 2:59 pm |
  19. meifumado

    @ TheZel

    You are an idiot.

    February 22, 2013 at 2:48 pm |
  20. Reality to the Rescue

    The most corrupt, distgusting, lying, pretentious collection of pedophiliac men the world has ever known, thanks again 'god.'

    February 22, 2013 at 2:36 pm |
    • Z

      The U.S. Government?

      February 22, 2013 at 3:31 pm |
    • meifumado

      @ Z
      any person how follows Islam?

      February 22, 2013 at 3:39 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.