I must admit that I might be tempted to refuse to return calls from news outlets were I the new Cardinal of New York and word got around that when I was Archbishop of Milwaukee I'd authorized $20,000 payments to encourage rapist priests to zip up, shut up, and leave the priesthood. Cardinal Dolan, unavailable for comment is, in addition to his now shepherding our largest diocese, the current president of the US Conference of Bishops.
Numbers of sources in New York, northern New Jersey, elsewhere, including the New York Times, report that when stories about these payoffs surfaced years back in Milwaukee, the then-Archbishop said the accusations were "false, preposterous and unjust." Apparently not, for as Laurie Goodstein in Thursday's Times' writes,
"...a document unearthed during bankruptcy proceedings for the Archdioces of Milwaukee...reveals that the archdiocese did make such payments to multiple accused priests to encourage them..."
to speed up their own dismissals. Doing so in such cases allows the Church to ditch fast wayward priests from diocesan payrolls. The more typical laicazation process requires Vatican approval for each man a diocese wants gone and it simply takes much longer if the offending priest challenges the process -- thus the skids were greased with numbers of $20,000 payments.
The Milwaukee Archdiocese stated publicly on Wednesday that the payments had been made, " as a motivation" for offenders to go. This leaves the new New York Cardinal Dolan's emphatic denial, (again, when he headed the Milwaukee Archdiocese) looking at best silly.
There is a record of now-Cardinal Dolan's specific knowledge and approval of the Milwaukee payments. Ms. Goodstein writes that
"the newly revealed document is in the minutes of a meeting of the financial council of the Milwaukee archdiocese from March 7, 2003"
which then-Archbishop Dolan attended. Those minutes attest to the fact that "unassignable priests", that is, those the archdiocese itself considered to have done harm to children were as yet receiving full salaries. A shorter process for taking these men from the salary rolls was wanted because the Milwaukee Church had already lost millions to sexual abuse-related law suits. In fact, Ms. Goodstein reports, last year the Milwaukee Church filed for bankruptcy despite the money-saving scheme. Cardinal Dolan, apparently, became New York's Cardinal when his former diocese went under.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, a group that goes to bat for victims, asks this excellent question in a recent letter to the Milwaukee Church:
"In what other occupation, especially one working with families and operating schools and youth programs, is an employee given a cash bonus for raping and sexually assaulting children?"
I'd ask two more.
1. How much pain must an enormous and powerful universal institution inflict on our children by its utterly ahistoric ideological insistence that a brilliant, charismatic, just and decent thirty-three-year-old Galilean peasant Jew disdained women so deeply --
-- and that, that is what this is about --
that he died an umwed virgin and that those prepared to speak in his name must also disdain women so thoroughly that the idea of sex with them is repellent?
2. How much longer must the Church's good works be undermined and its good people sullied by policies traceable to an absolutely ahistorical apprehension of who Jewish young men were in that time and place --
-- they all married; all, unless they were severely physically or mentally ill --
-- how long will the Church allow itself to rot from within by a policy that by its very nature invites into the priesthood young men who simply have to know they're fundamentally sexually and emotionally compromised and can find social approval and honor nowhere else but in the ministry...a ministry they already know will cover for them?
While it's true that the Church has not always required priestly chastity, it was an early demand even when it permitted married priests.
(in Wiki and elsewhere)