WI--In a major victory for Milwaukee clergy abuse survivors, 7th Circuit Federal Court rules against Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s transfer of $58 million dollars

Decision rejects first amendment argument, opens the door to determine if the Vatican and Dolan constituted the trust for purposes of fraud

Statement by Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director (Milwaukee)

CONTACT:  414.429.7259

Or Mark Salmon, SNAP Milwaukee director 414.712.2092

In a major victory for some 575 victims of childhood rape and sexual assault by dozens of Milwaukee Roman Catholic clergy, the 7th Circuit Federal Court in Chicago ruled this afternoon in a strongly worded statement that a $58 million dollar “cemetery trust” constituted by Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York while he was Archbishop of Milwaukee is not protected by the first amendment.  The ruling could have major consequences for Dolan and the Vatican, since the court can now determine if the trust was fraudulently created by him and the Vatican before the Archdiocese declared bankruptcy four years ago.    

The 7th Circuit overturned a previous decision by controversial Federal Court Judge Rudolph Randa in Milwaukee.  Randa had barred any examination of Dolan’s transfer of the money into a new “cemetery trust” before the archdiocese declared bankruptcy, essentially declaring that so called church “canon law” trumped US Federal Law in constituting the legality of the trust.

In a letter by Dolan to the Vatican seeking permission from the Pope to create the trust, Dolan states that, in part, the trust was being created in order to prevent US courts from compensating victims of clergy sex crimes.  That means the trust was created for purposes of fraud, which would not only return the money back to the Archdiocese to be used to pay creditors in the current bankruptcy but also raises questions of criminal misconduct. 

Finally, if Dolan had to seek permission from the Vatican and the Pope (then Benedict XVI) to create the trust, that clearly means that it is the Vatican, and not the Archdiocese of Milwaukee which is ultimately in charge of local church finances.  The upcoming court examination, including the deposition one presumes of Dolan and, logically, top Vatican officials, even Benedict himself, could, for the first time, open the door to the long contested relationship between local bishops and the Vatican, most importantly, in matters of billions of dollars of church money and it’s deployment in the decades long cover up of abusive priests around the globe.

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. We’ve been around for 23 years and have more than 18,000 members worldwide. 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. Visit us at SNAPnetwork.org and SNAPwisconsin.com 


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