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Cardinal Dolan welcomes release of Milwaukee documents, defends his leadership there

Catholic World News - July 02, 2013

New York’s Cardinal Timothy Dolan has welcomed the release of thousands of documents by the Milwaukee archdiocese, showing the response of Church leaders there to sex-abuse complaints.

Cardinal Dolan, who was Archbishop of Milwaukee from 2002 to 2009, said his experience dealing with sex-abuse complaints accounted for “some of the most difficult, challenging, and moving events” in his tenure. “One of the principles that guided me during that time was the need for transparency and openness,” he said.

Analysis of the records released on July 1 shows that whereas previous archbishops had covered up evidence of abuse and shuffled accused priests to new parish assignments, then-Archbishop Dolan pressed for prompt and decisive action against priests guilty of abuse. The files of the Milwaukee archdiocese who that he urged Vatican officials to respond promptly to requests for laicization, and insisted that candor was essential to restore the damaged credibility of the Catholic hierarchy.

Although the newly released files provided ample evidence of misconduct by archdiocesan officials in earlier years, spokesmen for abuse victims called special attention to Cardinal Dolan’s handling of archdiocesan finances rather than to previous archbishops’ handling of predatory priests. Lawyers for abuse victims have complained that the cardinal moved archdiocesan funds to make them unavailable to sex-abuse plaintiffs.

Cardinal Dolan responded to the charges in his July 1 statement, noting that the release of the Milwaukee files provided an opportunity for some critics to “raise old and discredited attacks.” The cardinal specifically addressed two complaints: the charges that he had paid accused priests to accept laicization and that he had established a new trust fund to shield money from creditors.

Dioceses are obligated by canon law to provide financial support for priests throughout their lives, the cardinal pointed out. The archdiocese made payments to priests who chose laicization in order to discharge those obligations and sever their ties.

Regarding the trust fund he created, the cardinal reported that the funds were held not by the archdiocese itself but by a fund established for local cemeteries. A separate trust fund was set up to insure that the cemetery funds remained separate and the future needs of the cemeteries were protected, in according with state law.

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