Timothy Dolan Authorized Payments to Abusive Priests, Documents Show

Thursday, May 31, 2012

Every year during the parade, Archbishop Timothy Dolan greets Italian-American parade-goers outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral. Every year during the parade, Archbishop Timothy Dolan greets Italian-American parade-goers outside St. Patrick’s Cathedral. (Marlon Bishop/WNYC)

Cardinal Timothy Dolan approved payments to suspected pedophile priests to leave the ministry when he was the archbishop of Milwaukee, new documents reveal.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee confirmed Wednesday that it had a policy to pay suspected pedophile priests to leave the ministry, a practice that was crafted under Dolan, it said.

"In 2002, the church affirmed that priest offenders should no longer be functioning as priests in any capacity and having someone seek laicization voluntarily is faster and less expensive and it made sense to try and move these men out of the priesthood as quickly as possible," the Archdiocese of Milwaukee said in a statement. 

The acknowledgement was prompted by a document made public by abuse victims' advocates from the archdiocese's bankruptcy that references a 2003 proposal to pay $20,000 to "unassignable priests" who accepted a return to the laity.

A spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York said in a statement to WNYC that the cardinal "has read and supports the statement from the Archdiocese of Milwaukee," and had no further comment.

The New York Times reports Dolan made contradictory claims about the practice when first asked about it:

Questioned at the time about the news that one particularly notorious pedophile cleric had been given a “payoff” to leave the priesthood, Cardinal Dolan, then the archbishop, responded that such an inference was “false, preposterous and unjust.”

The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests characterizes the payments as a payoff and bonuses to priests who molested children.

"Cardinal Dolan ... instead of paying off sex offenders needs to demand from the Vatican and from his fellow bishops and cardinals that these practices stop," said Peter Isley, Midwest director of SNAP.

The archdiocese disputes that characterization, saying the payments were in part to more quickly move those men out of the priesthood.

The Journal Sentinel article noted that Dolan used similar language in 2006 when he defended a payment to one former priest.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Julie Wolf also called the payments "a cost-savings for the archdiocese" because the process to involuntarily remove a priest is lengthy and involves Vatican approval.

The bankruptcy document highlighted by SNAP references a meeting of the archdiocese's Finance Council in 2003 that included Dolan, who was then archbishop in Milwaukee.

According to the document, members discussed offering "unassignable priests" $20,000 to accept the process known as laicization.

Annmarie Fertoli contributed reporting.


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Comments [17]

billywingartenson from baltimore

they are not just trying to protect the church's assets and reputation. What makes the "not normal" celibacy thing any different for the hierarchy
Its CYA for the hierarchy re the kiddies also

Aug. 15 2013 09:39 PM
Bill Lamond

Clear to me that if the story about Jesus' whipping people defiling the Temple was true, if he were to come back today, he would start with the Vatican and work his way down to the archbishops. These people are lying, hypocritical bastards who do what oppressors always do, viz. protect their own until they are forced to admit the truth.
Regarding the cost effectiveness of paying off priests, this self-serving "religious leader" (YIKES) neglects to mention that his real duty was to turn pedophiles over to the criminal authorities for their offenses.

Jun. 29 2012 10:58 PM
JC Honeycutt from NC

Considering how many pedophiles were simply moved to other parishes, one has to wonder how bad a priest would have to be to be considered "unassignable"--or was the criteria how public their offenses became?

Jun. 05 2012 12:43 PM
Leon Van Dyke

"Abstinence makes the church grow fondlers."

Jun. 04 2012 10:31 AM
sethytim from Canada

Were there so many "unassignable priests that the archdiocese was forced into bankruptcy?

Jun. 04 2012 10:02 AM
Stephen from Manhattan

This is more proof that the Catholic Church's top priority is protecting its public image and -- perhaps even more importantly -- its vast financial resources. The welfare of children and of the now-adult victims of pedophile priests seem to be the very least of its concerns. It wishes the whole mess would just quietly go away.

During my 12 years of Catholic education I was taught that a priest is held in the highest esteem -- essentially Christ's representative in the community. The fact that that thousands of priests worldwide have abused their position is unforgivable and criminal. But are they prosecuted? Oh no. The Church circles its wagons to protect its own -- especially its hierarchy, the Vatican, and its fortunes.

Archbishop Dolan is little more than a glib, glad-handing, corrupt politician. His genial manner and quick wit do not excuse his actions in Milwaukee nor his lies about his handling of those cases. But what does the Vatican do? Reward him. The pope appoints him archbishop of New York and, in short order, elevates him to cardinal. The most appalling ramification is that Dolan -- who is extremely popular among the Congress of Cardinals -- could be elected the first American pope. Given how frail Pope Benedict XVI is, that possibility is not too far off in the future.

Jun. 03 2012 03:55 PM
neil allen from nyc

The Catholic church of professional pedophile protection is different than any other organization in the world. They rape 100,000+ children, blatantly lie about it, fight the victims viciously, and now they pay bonuses to pedophiles instead of sending them to jail.

Its organized crime, and the people who follow it will go to hell for supporting a church that claimed to be God's church while it was raping God's children, lying about it, and fighting their victims.

Jun. 02 2012 05:53 AM
k webster from NYC

Sorry Ed from Larchmont, but even if you are right, this is still inexcusable. The Church is known for being authoritarian when it chooses. It could have immediately removed these men to a place where they wouldn't be in contact with children. There was no "rush" in that sense.
Why didn't the Church hierarchy set up a center-away from children- to help them? Invariably these men had been targeted as children themselves. Instead, after the damage was done, they rid themselves of these clearly troubled men and sent them off to prey on other children.
This didn't "end their obligations" - to anyone.
How in any sense was this a morally acceptable solution?

Jun. 01 2012 09:27 AM
Ed from Larchmont

The charge circulating through the media today--that the Milwaukee archdiocese paid off priests who had abused children--is horribly misleading. What happened, in fact, is that the archdiocese made single lump-sum payments to end all further obligations and speed the process of laicization. In other words the archdiocese was rushing to remove these men from the clergy. Since SNAP has urged bishops to do exactly that, it's irresponsible and hypocritical for them to charge now that the the payments were "bonuses" for rapists. For an organization that has made many sensational attacks against the Church, this is a new low.

From Phil Lawlor, Catholic World News.

Jun. 01 2012 05:46 AM
Judy Jones from Missouri

Today, Dolan's silence is extremely "LOUD"... Maybe that is because he lied...

Once again we are seeing that the high ranking church officials do not have the victims or children's best interests at heart. These men will go to great lengths to protect themselves, their images, and the institution.

Judy Jones, SNAP Midwest Associate Director, 636-433-2511
(SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world's oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims.
SNAP was founded in 1988 and has more than 12,000 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 and increasingly, victims who were assaulted in a wide range of institutional settings like summer camps, athletic programs, Boy Scouts, etc. Our website is

May. 31 2012 08:14 PM
K Webster from nyc

Paying off an abuser so he can go elsewhere to molest other (not-Catholic?) unsuspecting children is NOT the high moral ground...despite the very excellent cost savings to the Church. I do believe Jesus would have not have weighed the financial costs to the Church but the moral ones. And his brand of justice looked quite different.
It is breathtaking how entitled this male dominated institution and it's mouthpieces harbor, reward and/or protect child molesting priests- all the while harassing Sisters who work behalf of the poor for being too "radical" on women's issues. These men have the temerity to claim the right to control women's bodies when they clearly cannot control their own nor their brother priests.
Abortion is not an easy choice for any woman - and men who have the gall to assume a high moral tone don't risk their lives to bear children. Take on the men in your ranks for their transgressions and we'll be more apt to listen to your issues with ours!
As for NPR bias, this news organization did stories on several examples of institutionalized pedophilia. Deal with the issue -not your feelings of victimization.

May. 31 2012 07:09 PM
JR from Oklahoma

Offering an early retirement package to people with a liability is common in business. Senior people get them all the time to make room for new (younger) talent. I don't see a problem here.

May. 31 2012 05:06 PM
Ed from Larchmont

This is far more complex than you make out, lots more involved. You don't know the case, you don't know the circumstances, or the options,or the priests involved. It should be noted that whatever happened, and I trust Cardinal Dolan's judgement, that the Church has corrected this problem with an excellent reporting program.

Also, in general, I'll take this serious topic more seriously when we lay people stop slaughtering children in abortion clinics.

May. 31 2012 01:31 PM
Bill J from Bronx

Typical, unjust way the media handles the abuse scandal in the Church. The story is as much about the media referencing itself as it does the abuse. In this case, Cardinal Dolan is accused by WNYC of being dishonest or at least flip flopping because he took offense at the New York Times characterization that he approved "pay off" to abusers. Who wouldn't be offended by such editorialization posing as news reporting. And now NPR wants to cast a shadow of underhandedness on Dolan because it came up with some documents which verified a policy whose existence were not denied in the first place. Talking about making news out of nothing. This is just another thoughtless attempt by a media outlet stirring the pot of this painful episode to generate controversy. And, of course SNAP's portrayal of this program as a "bonus" or a commission for the abuse is just so grotesque and ridiculous. It is telling that WNYC can report this with a straight face.

May. 31 2012 01:29 PM

Dolan already had zero credibility, but now he's gone deep in negative territory. Payoffs to pedophile predators who are kicked out of the church gravy train but NOTHING to protect the children?

Anyone who continues to give their money to the Catholic church after reading that this is how they use it, please know you are enabling a criminal conspiracy.

May. 31 2012 12:34 PM
John Dillon from 10011

How anyone can remain a member of this sinful organization is beyond me. I was brought up Catholic and it was common knowledge that our parish had child molesting priests. Once discovered they were sent to another parish. One law for us and another for the clergy and no mention of the damage done to the children.

May. 31 2012 11:27 AM
Bob Dennis from California

Why didn't Dolan help transition these low lives into prison by reporting them to the police, instead of paying them off and allowing them to remain in the public?

May. 31 2012 10:25 AM

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