The Archdiocese of Milwaukee and a former priest who received money to leave the ministry following allegations of sexual abuse say that payment and others were a form of charity meant to help men transition to a new life following the priesthood.
The archdiocese acknowledged paying suspected pedophile clergy after an abuse victimsâ€™ group produced a court document Wednesday that mentioned a 2003 proposal to pay $20,000 to â€œunassignable priestsâ€ who agree to leave the ministry. The document from the archdioceseâ€™s bankruptcy proceedings includes minutes from a 2003 meeting of its Finance Council, which included then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan, now a cardinal and head of the New York archdiocese.
Council members discussed how the church should handle sexual abuse complaints, a possible budget deficit and how to cut costs. The $20,000 payments were among the options mentioned.
The Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests characterizes the payments as a payoff to priests who molested children.
â€œThis was a signing bonus for signing papers that would be sent to the Vatican,â€ SNAP Midwest director Peter Isely said. â€œThey needed to have been fired. You donâ€™t pay someone who has committed a criminal act. You fire them. Period.â€
The archdiocese says similar payments were made to men leaving the priesthood long before allegations of sexual abuse surfaced in the Catholic church. Archdiocese spokeswoman Julie Wolf said the payments were a type of severance pay.
â€œIn a sense, it was a sense of charity to help those men transition from the clergy state to the lay state,â€ Wolf said. The church has a responsibility not only to victims of clergy abuse, but to those accused of abuse, she said. [More]
AP/The Washington Post