Milwaukee Diocese Sex Abuse Records Scheduled for Release

sex_abuse_clergy_catholic_churchTimothy Dolan, cardinal of the New York archdiocese and the prior archbishop of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, is the focus of some documents concerning clergy sex crimes being releases as part of a bankruptcy deal.

In documents made public today, the Archdiocese of Milwaukee is preparing for  bankruptcy filing following dozens of claims brought by victims alleging clergy sex abuse. Cardinal Dolan, during his time as the archbishop of that diocese apparently sought and received Vatican permission to move some $57 million from a cemetery fund and into a trust meant to provide “improved protection,” according to The Associated Press (AP). Dolan’s 2007 letter and the response from the Vatican are just some of thousands of pages of documents released by the archdiocese in a deal reached in federal bankruptcy court made between the archdiocese and sex abuse victims suing the archdiocese for fraud, the AP wrote.

Dolan said in his 2007 letter that cemetery fund money would still have to be used for cemetery care if placed in a trust, noting that, “By transferring these assets to the Trust, I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.”

According to victims, the archdiocese moved its problem priests to new churches, never warned parishioners, and hid the crimes for decades. Meanwhile, victims’ attorneys have accused Dolan of attempting to hide the money as the archdiocese planned for bankruptcy; the archdiocese denies the allegations, the AP wrote. Dolan issued a statement saying that accusations of his attempting to hide the money from victims as an “old and discredited” attack. Jerry Topczewski, chief of staff for Milwaukee’s Archbishop Jerome Listecki, said the money was always set aside for cemetery care; moving the monies into a trust formalized that.

Dolan is president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops and is considered by many to be the nation’s foremost Roman Catholic official. Dolan took over as Milwaukee archbishop in mid-2002, which was after many victims came forward. While he has not been accused of moving problem priests, his response to the crisis has been questioned, the AP noted.

Other documents being released include depositions taken from Dolan and Archbishop Rembert Weakland, Dolan’s predecessor,  as well as the personnel files of 42 of the 45 archdiocese priests who have received verified abuse claim, according to the AP. Topczewski said that allegations against one priest were received after the bankruptcy filing and will be released a future date, once the bankruptcy is complete. Files from two other priests will not be released as they involve individual victims whose identities would be easy to determine based on the documents.

It has been more than a decade since a rash of allegations against Catholic priests surfaced. The church has spent millions of dollars, if not more, to defend itself against charges it knew of allegations of sexual abuse being committed by its clergy. Many former priests have been sentenced to prison terms after being convicted of their crimes. And more than 10 years later, priests and church officials continue to defend themselves against allegations of sexual abuse or conspiring to ignore these accusations.

Hundreds, potentially thousands, of children were sexually abused by their priests or other church officials and were often intimidated into not telling their parents or civil authorities of crimes committed against them. In many cases, victims of sexual abuse are hesitant to come forward with their allegations, even years after they were abused.

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