Cardinal Timothy Dolan has denied allegations in the past that he paid off pedophile priests and/or tried to shield church funds while serving as Archbishop of Milwaukee. However, new files released by his former archdiocese reveal that Catholic Church officials did protect church funds from potential lawsuits by alleged sex abuse victims, with Dolan moving $57 million into a trust in 2007.
Among the 6,000 pages of documents released by the Milwaukee archdiocese yesterday was a letter from Dolan to the Vatican requesting the funds be transferred, with the then-Archbishop noting, “I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.” The files also revealed the archdiocese had reassigned priests who were accused of sexual molestation, and an attorney representing victims who claim abuse by the Church says the transferred funds were meant to "pay off some of the offenders to quietly go away."
A number of priests accused of molestation came from the Milwaukee archdiocese, like Rev. Lawrence Murphy, who is believed to have molested as many as 200 boys during his tenure as St. John’s School for the Deaf in St. Francis, Wisconsin. (The Vatican has refused to defrock Murphy.)
Also among the documents: evidence that it took the Vatican six years to remove a priest, Rev. John O’Brien, who had been convicted of sexual abuse of a 17-year-old boy in 2000. “After only a few visits they began to hug each other at the end of their time together,” Dolan wrote in a letter to the Vatican in 2003. “Shortly thereafter, in the basement of the church building, Father O’Brien and the boy had explicit sexual contact.” O'Brien was not removed from his position until 2009.
Dolan dismissed accusations that the transferred funds were related to sex abuse charges, and released a statement on his blog yesterday that they were "old and discredited attacks." "I welcome today’s voluntary release of documents by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee that contain information and details related to sexual abuse by clergy, and how the Archdiocese of Milwaukee responded to it," Dolan said in his statement. But victims of abuse by the church are calling for a federal investigation into Dolan's actions as Archbishop, and hope the release of the documents—which offer allegations of abuse by priests going back eighty years—will allow for more transparency within the church; previous evidence has suggested Dolan paid pedophile priests as much as $20,000 to leave the church without scandal.