The following is a letter from leaders of SNAP Wisconsin to Archbishop Listecki of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee. The letter deals with actions by former Archbishop of Milwaukee, Cardinal Timothy Dolan.
The biblical account of the events that led to Christ’s execution begin, of course, with the betrayal of Jesus by Judas, one of the twelve disciples, to religious and political authorities. That betrayal was marked and sealed by a disbursement of money: 30 pieces of silver. So it is with considerable dismay to learn that the apostolic leaders of the Milwaukee church, who gather the faithful around the name and memory of Christ, have been apparently engaged in paying off those who betrayed the children of our archdiocese.
Minutes from a March 2003 Archdiocese Finance Council meeting, which have surfaced in Milwaukee Federal Bankruptcy Court, appear to confirm what we survivors and our families have long suspected, that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, under the leadership of Archbishop Dolan and Bishop Sklba, were paying off priests who committed criminal acts of rape, sexual assault and abuse against youngsters. According to the minutes of this meeting, a plan was discussed by Dolan and Sklba and others whereby known priest child molesters would be paid $20,000 each to quietly leave the priesthood through the Vatican’s administrative process of laicization, $10,000 at the beginning of the process and $10,000 upon completing it.
Evidence shows the plan was implemented. In 2006, pedophile cleric Franklyn Becker made admissions to the Milwaukee media and confirmed by the Archdiocese that he had been cut a $10,000 check to sign his laicization papers. This money was a “signing bonus” with no restrictions applied. Dolan claimed at the time that this was an isolated incident of “charity”. Yet, in July of 2011, further evidence of a payout scheme was revealed when you acknowledged that the archdiocese would be making a “final” payment of $90,000 to nine priests undergoing laicization. A few months later you put the archdiocese into Chapter 11 bankruptcy.
The federal bankruptcy court would never have allowed payments to pedophiles as part of a restructuring plan, much less unrestricted payouts.
And while you and Cardinal Dolan and Bishop Sklba seemed to have no qualms in negotiating with pedophiles, instead of proceeding with mediation for the restitution of the hundreds of victims who filed in bankruptcy, you have proposed instead to the court that the archdiocese be allowed to set up a limited therapy fund, operated, of course, by church officials. How ironic that when you paid off pedophile priests you did so with no restrictions on the money whatsoever. That money may be being used by them right now to aid in the commission of further crimes against children.
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? Would a doctor who deliberately and criminally killed patients be financially rewarded for it by the American Medical Association? Do taxpayers financially compensate a judge or a prosecutor after he gets caught taking bribes? When a bank teller embezzles money does the bank give her a nice financial windfall for it? Yet, when you molest and abuse children as a priest, according to the minutes of the meeting, you have a salary, benefits, health insurance and, to incentivize going quietly into that night of some new job and settle in some new community, you’re given twenty thousand dollars of church money by your Archbishop.
There are other disturbing revelations in the minutes. Of how the Archdiocese under Dolan was planning to set up a “restorative justice” program to prevent victims from receiving compensation for injuries comparable to cases being filed against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee in California. At the time, the archdiocese figured that a victim’s pain and anguish was worth $30,000, or $10,000 more than would be given to the priest that raped him.
Testimony and records in the current bankruptcy now show that Dolan did implement such a program that was designed, in part, to quickly obtain victims signatures on legal releases, often with no lawyers present, and deliberately mislead survivors about the church’s prior knowledge of abusive priests.
Additionally, the minutes also show that already in 2003 Dolan and the Archdiocese were beginning a series of financial maneuvers to place millions of dollars into newly invented “trusts” so that victims and later, bankruptcy creditors, would be prevented from accessing those assets. Three such trusts would eventually be set up under Dolan before he left to become the Archbishop of New York in 2010, with their total amount estimated at over a hundred million dollars.
Given the questions raised by this new document, we are urging you to immediately provide:
--full financial disclosure of all payouts and “laicization” bonuses to sex offender clerics,
--identify which charitable funds were used to pay-off clergy sex offenders, and
--release of the “Dolan Papers”, including all minutes of the monthly Archdiocese Finance Council chaired by Dolan and auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba.
According to gospel accounts, the betrayal of Jesus was pragmatically motivated. Religious leaders were concerned that Jesus preaching and actions were going to bring trouble and interference in religious practices by the Roman state. The innocence of Jesus, according to the Gospel, was never in question. “What,” religious leaders asked themselves, “is the value of one innocent man against the survival and comfort of our group?” Every child victim of sexual violence by a priest or religious in this archdiocese is innocent, the crimes committed against them confronting the religious leaders of our church with the very same dilemma faced by the religious leaders of Jesus’ time.
We are asking you again: put yourself on the side of victim/survivors, make our cause—the cause of justice--your cause. You can do this right now by releasing every single document, deposition and disclosure you have in your possession concerning the betrayal of the innocent in our archdiocese.
SNAP Midwest Director
Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests
SNAP Wisconsin Director
SNAP Milwaukee Co-Director