Dolan Sought to Protect Church Assets, Files Show
By LAURIE GOODSTEIN
Published: July 1, 2013
Files released by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee on Monday reveal that in 2007, Cardinal Timothy F. Dolan, then the archbishop there, requested permission from the Vatican to move nearly $57 million into a cemetery trust fund to protect the assets from victims of clergy sexual abuse who were demanding compensation.
Cardinal Timothy F. Dolan in 2012. He reiterated in a statement Monday that these were “old and discredited attacks.”
Cardinal Dolan, now the archbishop of New York, has emphatically denied seeking to shield church funds as the archbishop of Milwaukee from 2002 to 2009. He reiterated in a statement Monday that these were “old and discredited attacks.”
However, the files contain a 2007 letter to the Vatican in which he explains that by transferring the assets, “I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.” The Vatican approved the request in five weeks, the files show.
The release of more than 6,000 pages of documents on Monday was hailed by victims and their advocates as a vindication and a historic step toward transparency and accountability. They were well aware that the archives would bring unusually intense scrutiny to the country’s most high-profile prelate, Cardinal Dolan, who as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops and the archbishop of New York has sought to help the church turn the corner on the era of scandal.
Cardinal Dolan has been regarded by many Catholics as part of the solution. In public appearances, he has expressed personal outrage at the harm done to children, apologized profusely and pledged to help the church and the victims heal.
But the documents lift the curtain on his role as a workaday church functionary concerned with safeguarding assets, persuading abusive priests to leave voluntarily in exchange for continued stipends and benefits, and complying with Rome’s sluggish canonical procedures for dismissing uncooperative priests who he had long concluded were remorseless and a serious risk to children. In one case, the Vatican took five years to remove a convicted sex offender from the priesthood.
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