Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York says he worked to end a clergy sex abuse scandal and removed abusive priests when he was the leader of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, but critics say thousands of pages of material released by the archdiocese on Monday prove the exact opposite. NY1's Jon Weinstein filed the following report.
Thousands of pages of depositions, documents and letters have been released, revealing how Cardinal Timothy Dolan handled the fallout from a sexual abuse scandal when he was the top Catholic Church official in Milwaukee.
Before dozens of claims of abuse by priests led the Archdiocese to file for bankruptcy, then-Archbishop Dolan sought permission from the Vatican to move $57 million meant for cemetery care into a newly created trust separate from the archdiocese's general funds.
In a 2007 letter seeking permission from the Vatican, which he ultimately got, Dolan writes, "By transferring these assets to the Trust, I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability."
"We see very clearly in the letter that the primary concern was with the legal claims that they were facing, and growing number of legal claims by victims of sexual abuse," said Pam Spees of the Center for Constitutional Rights.
But Dolan insisted his primary motivation was to guarantee that the cemeteries would be cared for, as required by Wisconsin law.
The documents also detail Dolan's efforts to remove priests who were found to have abused children, including paying some of them when they left the priesthood, something Dolan said church law required him to do.
In a 2003 letter to then-Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, who became Pope Benedict XVI, Dolan writes of one priest who admitted to abusing kids and needed to go. The letter adds, "As victims organize and become more public, the potential for true scandal is very real."
Advocates call that a sign of a cover-up that reaches all the way to Rome.
"There have been efforts to conceal the facts and the evidence of the abuse, admitted offenders," said Spees.
Dolan pointed to his deposition in the lawsuit, saying it details the steps he took to protect children, remove abusive priests and end a scandal he says he inherited when he became archbishop of Milwaukee.