Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan at Knock, Co Mayo
Who’s for another wounded healer?
RTÉ journalist Joe Little spoke with Archbishop of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan – who was in Knock for the National Novena – on yesterday’s This Week on RTÉ Radio One.
Mr Little started the interview by asking Cardinal Dolan about Ireland’s gay marriage referendum.
They then spoke about how, in 2007, Cardinal Dolan, when he was the Archbishop of Milwaukee, sought permission from the Vatican to transfer $57 million into a cemetery trust fund in Milwaukee – out of the reach of victims of abuse in the archdiocese.
In the letter, he wrote: ‘I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.’
This month the Archdiocese of Milwaukee reached a $21 million settlement with 330 victims of sexual abuse by clergy – ending four years of bankruptcy proceedings.
From yesterday’s interview…
Cardinal Timothy Dolan: [on the marriage referendum]”I’d be no scholar on events in Ireland but I do know in the United States it would, of course, cause us some consternation because we worry about, when I say ‘we’ I mean pastors, leaders, and the [Catholic] Church, because we worry about anything that we fear may dilute the noble purpose of marriage as between a man and woman in lifelong, life-giving faithful union. And anything, as you know, if you follow, if you follow the activities of the Church, anything , anything anywhere that would dilute the noble purpose of marriage, we worry about – whether that be adultery, whether that be fornication, whether that be co-habitation, whether that be polygamy, whether that be frivolous divorce. You know the statistic among Catholics in the United States? Only half of our young people approaches the sacrament of marriage – they’re not getting married. Now that causes us bishops at home to wring our hands and to fall to our knees in prayer because our young people don’t feel the call to lifelong, live-giving, faithful, loving marriage.”
Joe Little: “An issue which has discredited the Church in the eyes, especially of the young, is the issue of the Church’s handling and response to allegations and complaints of clerical child sexual abuse. Your record on this is questioned very, very strongly by many and specifically your action in putting aside most of the estate of the Milwaukee diocese, $57million worth, into a cemetery trust, and in your own acknowledgement in a letter to the Vatican, in order to protect that money from legal suits, what’s you response to those criticisms?”
Dolan: “Sure, there’s been a reconciliation and settlement in the Archdiocese in Milwaukee, that Joe, you would, you would not be surprised that I would be defensive on that issue and I often say this falls into the rubric of no good deed going unpublish-…unpunished. What happened when I got to the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, we were in trouble there as you know, that was in 2002 my predecessor had resigned in scandal and had also paid off close to half a million dollars to a man with whom he had had an immoral and promiscuous relationship, an adult man. So the diocese was in turmoil. I counted heavily on the counsel of qualified lay people in the archdiocese.
I said, ‘Boy, if we’re going to regain our credibility and our sense of purpose, I”m going to have to trust the people because the people have been singed terribly. So we had a very good finance counsel in the archdiocese, these were about 10 women and men of professional financial and legal background to whom I said, ‘You need to reassure me that the finances of the archdiocese that were whistle clean’. And so they said to me, they said, ‘We have a couple of problems, things that we could fix. We have one problem, one big one that you need to do something about immediately, you’ve got $55million in a trust fund to protect the cemeteries’. Now every cemetery has that, you know for perpetual care, it’s a huge, a huge patrimony. They said, ‘Ours is under the archdiocese, this isn’t our money, this isn’t diocesan money. This is a patrimony that people have entrusted for the perpetual care and by State law, by Wisconsin’s state law, this has to be segregated from the funds of the archdiocese’.”
Little: “Well why did you write to the Vatican, after this was done, saying ‘you foresee an improved protection from any claim and liability on foot of the movement of that money, out of the road, so that the alleged victims couldn’t get any compensation from that fund?”
Dolan: “Well if you you let me finish what I said at the beginning, and I’ll try to respond to that. So I listened to our lay counsel who said, ‘Archbishop Dolan, we gotta obey the law. This has to be set aside’. So I did. OK and I thought well, thanks be to god, they’re telling us to obey the law, they’re telling us to listen to lay advisors and we’ve done that. Later, you are right, Joe, I wrote to the Holy See and you’ll notice though that’s one line in the letter. Up above, if you read the whole letter [Below] you see I told the Holy See, the congregation for clergy, here’s why I did this, eminences, because state law in Wisconsin requires it and because, my lay finance counsel said it. Later on I said a side benefit of this would be if the Church is ever sued, now it’s not our money.”
Little: “That’s the law, what about justice? I mean you came here on a Vatican visitation to see how justly the Church in Ireland had dealt with victims of abuse but you explicitly acknowledge to the Vatican that a benefit of putting money into a cemetery trust – $57million – most of Milwaukee’s diocesans say was that it protected the money from litigants.”
Dolan: “So what about justice?”
Little: “Well, what are your credentials to participate in the visitation here about how the Irish Church dealt with victims.”
Dolan: “First of all, the visitation here was not to see how the Irish Church dealt with victims…”
Little: “Well that was one part of the terms of reference.”
Dolan: “No. My visitation here was to see how the seminaries were doing.”
Little: “Yeah but the overall terms of reference for the visitation was, partly, to examine how the Irish Church was dealing with survivors of abuse…”
Dolan: “With the other bishops. With me, my mandate was to see how the seminaries were doing and since I’d been rector of two seminaries, I guess they thought I had some credentials. And I don’t know, I didn’t say I had credentials, the Holy See said you’ve got credentials here, so…”
Little: “Well let me put it this way: Could seminarians who were being formed as future leaders of the Catholic Church, could they credibly take advice from you given that you told the Vatican that a benefit of moving $57million was to put it out of reach of litigants who had been abused, some of whom had been abused by priests?”
Dolan: “I hope so, especially if people knew that, in Milwaukee, I had already entered, at the suggestion of volunteers, a voluntary mediation programme that over 300 victims had benefited from.”
Listen back in full here
Previously: Timothy Dolan on Broadsheet