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Files released by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee 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.
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.
"It's still less than a complete disclosure, but it's a giant step in the right direction," said Jeff Anderson, a lawyer for many of the alleged victims. The documents were posted on both his Web site and the archdiocese's, but they were arranged differently to buttress each argument.
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.
Meanwhile New York child abuse survivors are already paying the price for the New York Senate failing to pass the Child Victims Act. Read the story about how Elmo's victory is a loss for children abused in New York State.
The Roman Catholic Church spent millions of dollars to defeat the Child Victims Act in multiple states. It's time for change.