Thousands of documents are released to the public from the Milwaukee Archdiocese. Some pages show the transfer of money, critics say, to keep it from victims seeking compensation; other documents point to efforts to remove sexually abusive priests.
A letter former Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan sent to the Vatican in 2007 is a “smoking gun,” according to the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, or SNAP. The group said the letter proves Dolan committed federal bankruptcy fraud. The victims’ lawyers had accused Dolan of conspiring with the Vatican to hide nearly $57 million “from any legal claim and liability” by victims of clergy sexual abuse as the Archdiocese prepared to declare bankruptcy.
SNAP said the documentation proves the “systematic, wide spread and continuing pattern of deceit, cover up and fraud by Dolan, his successor Jerome Listecki and their predecessor, Rembert Weakland.”
Dolan, who’s now the Archbishop of New York, issued a statement saying that any suggestion of his hiding money from victims was “an old and discredited attack.”
An Archdiocese spokesman said the money was earmarked for the church’s cemetery care; moving it to a trust fund was only a formality. A letter from Dolan, and the Vatican’s response, were among 6,000 pages of documents released by the archdiocese Monday afternoon, involving incidents of abuse dating back 80 years.
Those claiming to be molested by priests are asking for a federal investigation of Dolan for criminal charges of “fraudulent conveyance.”
The documents also show that Dolan tried to get rid of priests accused of bad behavior, including Daniel Budzynski. In deposition Dolan said “This was a particularly nauseating case.” Dolan, who is also president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, repeatedly wrote to the Vatican about the problems and pleaded that the abusive priests be defrocked.
The Archdiocese said its goal in the publication of these documents is to try to bring this chapter of history to a close and to allow the Church is southeastern Wisconsin to continue its work with sexual abuse survivors, and to focus on education and prevention.