Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Payoffs? Bonuses? Nonsense! Milwaukee archdiocese offered severance payments.

By Phil Lawler (bio - articles - email) | Jun 01, 2012

Let’s say you run a business. You discover that several of your employees have engaged in gross misconduct. Naturally you want to fire them.

But it’s complicated. You have contractual obligations to these workers. If you stop paying them immediately, they could sue. You’d probably win in court, but the costs of litigation would be considerable.

So what do you do? The same thing thousands of other unhappy employers do: You offer the misbehaving workers a cash payment, in exchange for their agreement to leave immediately and relinquish their contractual rights.

Now suppose someone comes along and says that you’ve given these employees—these ex-employees, I should say—a “bonus” for their misbehavior. How would you respond?

You’d say that the critic was crazy, I imagine. You weren’t rewarding the workers for misbehaving; you were dismissing them for misbehavior. The payment was made so that you could be rid of them quickly.

The Archdiocese of Milwaukee had obligations to priests who were found guilty of sexual abuse. Those priests might have been removed from ministry, but under canon law the archdiocese was still required to provide for their living expenses. The archdiocese could have—and did—undertake the canonical process of removing these men from the clergy, and thus ending the legal obligations. But if the priests resisted, that process could drag on, and meanwhile whose expenses would have to be paid.

So the archdiocese paid some priests to accept laicization and surrender their future benefits. This wasn’t a “payoff,” much less a “bonus.” It was the canonical equivalent of a severance payment.

No story here, folks. Unless you're really desperate for another stick to use to beat the Catholic hiearchy, let this one go.

An appeal from our founder, Dr. Jeffrey Mirus:

Dear reader: If you found the information on this page helpful in your pursuit of a better Catholic life, please support our work with a donation. Your donation will help us reach seven million Truth-seeking readers worldwide this year. Thank you!

Our Fall Campaign
Progress toward our year-end goal ($27,707 to go):
$150,000.00 $122,292.96
18% 82%
Sound Off! CatholicCulture.org supporters weigh in.

All comments are moderated. To lighten our editing burden, only current donors are allowed to Sound Off. If you are a donor, log in to see the comment form; otherwise please support our work, and Sound Off!

Show 1 Comments? (Hidden)Hide Comments
  • Posted by: Randal Mandock - Jun. 03, 2012 9:23 PM ET USA

    "The Archdiocese of Milwaukee offered...priests cash payouts to persuade them to leave the priesthood...[P]ayments of up to $20,000 were...offered...to encourage the priests to surrender the salary and benefits that the archdiocese would otherwise have been obligated to pay them...[T]he payments were made to accelerate the process of removing abusive priests from the clergy." Perhaps the original CWN article should have merely said what you did above: the Archdiocese offered severance packages.

Fall 2014 Campaign
Subscribe for free
Shop Amazon
Click here to advertise on CatholicCulture.org

Recent Catholic Commentary

Another side of Francis: US-Cuba role shows Pope's diplomatic muscle 0 hours ago
Silly season: a Christmas approaches, a scholar questions whether Jesus ever existed 1 hours ago
The intrinsic immorality of torture: still not convinced? 6 hours ago
The Complexity of Reforming Religious Communities December 17
Speaking Softly to Women Religious December 16

Top Catholic News

Most Important Stories of the Last 30 Days
Pope Francis: Europe seems 'elderly and haggard' CWN - November 25
Pope Francis, Ecumenical Patriarch sign joint declaration, lament persecution of Christians CWN - December 1
Consistory for new cardinals scheduled for February CWN - December 11
Vatican report on US women religious calls for further self-assessment CWN - December 16
Pope brokered deal to open US-Cuba ties CWN - December 17