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Catholic Clergy Sex Abuse: Documents Prove Milwaukee Archdiocese Shielded Suspected Pedophile Priests

No laughing matter for Cardinal Dolan... (Photo: Roman Catholic Church/Flickr Creative Commons)

No laughing matter for Cardinal Dolan… (Photo: Roman Catholic Church/Flickr Creative Commons)

Newly-released documents prove Roman Catholic Church officials in Milwaukee protected accused pedophile priests from criminal prosecution.

According to the New York Times, the documents also prove that the highest-ranking Catholic clergyman in the United States, Cardinal Timothy Dolan, sought permission from the Vatican to transfer tens of millions of dollars into a trust fund in an attempt to protect Church assets from being paid out to victims of clergy sex abuse.

Reuters reports that 6,000 pages of documents related to eight decades of sex abuse cases were released on Monday. Among the files are letters and deposition testimony from Dolan, who was archbishop of Milwaukee from 2002 through 2009, which show he appealed to the Vatican on multiple occasions seeking the transfer of nearly $57 million into a cemetery trust fund in a bid to shield the money from lawsuit and settlement payouts to victims of pedophile priests and other abusive clergy. Court documents reveal Dolan sought the transfer to protect the funds “from any legal claim and liability.” The Vatican approved the transfer about a month later.

Cardinal Dolan is now the archbishop of New York, as well as president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops. He has publicly voiced his outrage at the clergy sex abuse scandal and apologized to victims. He has also vowed to help both the Church and its victims heal. But he has also incurred the wrath of survivors of abuse by verbally attacking some victims and calling SNAP– the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests– liars.

Dolan’s past record in dealing with abusive clergy has also come under fire. Last June, it was revealed that he devised and implemented a 2003 plan in which suspected pedophile priests were paid $20,000 to leave the ministry. Instead of notifying police about accusations of abuse, Dolan effectively paid off suspected child rapists and molesters to make them go away.

In 2011, the Milwaukee archdiocese declared bankruptcy due to the financial strain resulting from clergy sex abuse claims. The judge in charge of the bankruptcy proceedings ordered the release of the damning documents.

All told, the Catholic Church has paid out a total of nearly $3 billion to US victims of abusive clergy. Milwaukee was the eighth US archdiocese to declare bankruptcy.

Dolan, who was far from the only leading US Catholic official to shield suspected child-raping priests and clergy from prosecution (Cardinal Roger Mahoney, the former Archbishop of Los Angeles, is the second-highest ranking guilty official), denied that his request to transfer the $57 million had anything to do with protecting the money from sex abuse claims. On Monday Dolan said that he only intended to transfer the funds into a ‘perpetual care fund’ to be spent maintaining Church cemeteries, Reuters reports.

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