After five days of silence, Cardinal Dolan attacks victims, media
Won’t answer questions about secret payouts to pedophile priests in Milwaukee and why he misled public
Statement by Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director (Milwaukee)
After five days of silence, in remarks to the media this afternoon Cardinal Dolan, instead of explaining his actions of paying off pedophile priests to leave the priesthood while he was Archbishop of Milwaukee and then misleading the public about it in 2006, blasted the New York Times and the victim advocacy group SNAP, the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests.
It is not victim/survivors of predator priests in Milwaukee or the New York Times who publically confirmed, based on the official minutes of a meeting Dolan attended while the Archbishop of Milwaukee, that Dolan had authorized payments to child sex offender priests in order to be officially “laicized” and leave the priesthood. It was the Archdiocese of Milwaukee itself, including Dolan’s long time Milwaukee Chief of Staff, Jerry Topczewski. And it was confirmed several times, over several days. Presumably, Dolan does not consider that his former Archdiocese is making “groundless and scurrilous” charges about him? In fact, Dolan’s spokesperson said last week that Dolan “agreed” with the statements being issued by the Milwaukee Archdiocese.
But secretly paying off sex offenders to quietly leave the priesthood is not, as indefensible as that is, what is most damning about Dolan’s conduct. It is, rather, that he appears to have deliberately lied about it: to the public, to Catholics, and most egregiously of all, to victim/survivors of the very same predator priests he was paying off.
In 2006, when Dolan was confronted with evidence that he had implemented such a payout to notorious Milwaukee pedophile priest, Franklyn Becker, he loudly, unambiguously, and self-righteously denied that he had done so. “For anyone to assert” Dolan wrote in a statement at the time “that this money was a ‘payoff’ or occurred in exchange for Becker agreeing to leave the priesthood is completely false, preposterous and unjust.”
As the Archdiocese of Milwaukee confirmed, Dolan did, in fact, pay Becker and other offender clerics money that was directly and deliberately contingent upon the priest agreeing to be “laicized” or officially leaving the priesthood. That is why, according to the minutes of the 2003 meeting where Dolan discussed the plan, the payment was to be undertaken in two parts: $10,000 when the sex offender priest agreed to begin the laicization paperwork and the other $10,000 upon signing the final documents to be sent to Rome.
Dolan is reported to have conveniently left the country for Ireland today after his harangue, but it is going to be difficult for him to keep dodging questions, especially since the Vatican and the US bishops have turned to him to lead the Catholic Church through this year’s US presidential election controversies.
On June 13, Dolan will be taking the bullhorn as President of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops (USCCB) for their big summer gathering in Atlanta. The bishops will discuss and make public pronouncements on several hot button issues concerning politics, health care, contraception, religious liberty and good citizenship. Ironically, the bishops will also be hearing “new” recommendations from Dolan’s hand-picked National Review Board on sex abuse. Perhaps, ceasing to pay bonuses to priests who sexually molested children would be a good place to start.
This past week has seen Dolan’s first public leadership crisis that directly involves his character and truthfulness. Dolan was supposed to have been the voice of the post-sex-abuse church in America, allegedly fixing a draconian system where hierarchs placed the safety of priest pedophiles over the safety of children. But after these deeply disturbing revelations from Milwaukee and his refusal to address them, Dolan’s credibility to lead his brother bishops in any kind of reform is in serious doubt.
If, in Atlanta, Dolan does not start to seriously explain why he deliberately misled the public in 2006 about paying off pedophile priests in Milwaukee, anything he has to say about the clergy sex abuse crisis will forever sound “completely false, preposterous, and unjust.”
SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in our title, we have members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Visit us at SNAPnetwork.org and SNAPwisconsin.com