dotCommonweal

A blog by the magazine's editors and contributors

.

Grave inconsistencies.

Yesterday Milwaukee Catholics were treated to a six-thousand-page document dump revealing more information about the way their bishops handled the sexual-abuse crisis over the past few decades. Much of the news is distressingly familiar. You know the dirge: Abusers were routinely moved from parish to parish, or school to school, without telling local administrators why they were being reassigned. Even when bishops practically begged the Vatican to speedily laicize abusive priests, Rome took its time. (The case of John O'Brien seems particularly egregious. He'd been convicted of sexually assaulting a teenager and had petitioned John Paul II to be returned to the lay state. Then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan had to nag the Vatican to grant the petition twice in 2003. O'Brien wasn't laicized until 2009.) But the document cache released by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee does hold some surprises. 

In early 2011, Cardinal Dolan, now archbishop of New York and president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, warned readers of his blog that they might come across some "preposterous charges" concerning his tenure as archbishop of Milwaukee. Victims' attorney Jeff Anderson had been telling anyone within earshot that when Dolan was archbishop of Milwaukee he moved as much as $130 million off the archdiocese's books in an effort to shield it from victims seeking damages. Not so, said Dolan. He was simply returning money--$70 million of it--to parishes who had it on deposit with the archdiocese. What about the other $60 million? According to Dolan, he was just taking money that had been designated for the care of archdiocesan cemeteries and making sure it was "secure." The annual operating budget of the archdiocese is about $25 million.

But a letter included in the files released yesterday seems to complicate that claim. In June 2007, then-Archbishop Dolan wrote to the Vatican requesting permission to transfer nearly $57 million to a newly created trust for cemeteries owned by the archdiocese. "By transferring these assets to this trust," Dolan wrote, "I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability."

The letter was written just eleven months after word came that ten lawsuits against the Archdiocese of Wisconsin would be moving ahead in California, which had enacted legislation making it easier for victims to sue--something many feared would happen in Wisconsin and elswehere. Soon after, the archdiocese announced plans to sell its headquarters. (Dolan had already sold diocesan property totaling $4 million in order to establish a relief fund for victims.) But the housing bubble burst, and Dolan couldn't move the chancery building. 

Weeks after Dolan petitioned the Vatican for permission to create the cemeteries trust, the Wisconsin Supreme Court decided to allow victims of sexual abuse by priests to sue for fraud if they could show that a diocese had transferred clergy with histories of abuse while deceptively claiming they posed no threat. That opened a window that had been held shut by a 1995 Wisconsin Supreme Court ruling barring victims from suing dioceses for negligence. It's not impossible to understand why, in that climate, just as the Archdiocese of Los Angeles was preparing to announce its record $660 million settlement with victims, a bishop would be extremely concerned about his diocese's financial exposure. 

Still, on Monday Cardinal Dolan put out a statement again denying that he'd transferred the $57 million in order to "shield it from bankruptcy proceedings." He does not take up the reason he gave Rome for moving the money. Instead the cardinal repeats his assertion that creating the cemetery trust was "required by state law and mandated by the archdiocesan finance council." It's not clear what law Dolan is referring to (nor does he remind readers that episcopal authority is not restricted by diocesan finance councils). "Most states have regulatory oversight of cemeteries to make sure they maintain sufficient reserves for upkeep," Jason Berry reported last year, "but dioceses, as religious organizations, are spared such regulation in Wisconsin." But even if there is a law that would compel a religious organization to conform to financial norms set by the state (and it seems that, at least when it comes to religious cemeteries, there is not), would it force the archbishop to fund that trust with so much cash--more than twice the archdiocese's annual operating budget? The cardinal's most recent statement does not help clarify these glaring inconsistencies.

Money may salve the wounds caused by sexual abuse, but by itself it cannot heal them. And no one should pretend that some dioceses' ministries could not be curtailed by large financial settlements. But as the editors of Commonweal wrote after the Archdiocese of Los Angeles announced its $660 million settlement with victims, "The havoc wreaked by abuser priests and the bishops who enabled them is first and foremost a matter of unimaginable private anguish for the victims.... A bishop’s fiduciary responsibility for his diocese does not override the demands of justice for victims."

About the Author

Grant Gallicho is an associate editor of Commonweal. You can follow him on Facebook and Twitter.

Topics: 
69 comments
Close

69 comments

Commenting Guidelines

  • All

“A bishop’s fiduciary responsibility for his diocese does not override the demands of justice for victims."

It does not seem to me that fiduciary responsibility is at all limited to the management of finances.   In fact, I should have thought that the good faith and responsibility of a Bishop was due primarily to the welfare of his flock, sensu lato.   "Suffer the little children…,” and so on.  Preserving the Earthy wealth at the expense of suffering by the faithful under his charge?  One hardly knows where to begin.

Mark

If ordinary people hide assests in bankruptcy, it's a federal crime ...  http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Bankruptcy#Fraud

The federal statute of limitations for hiding assests in bankruptcy is five years, so Dolan's problem is more moral than legal.  His star is falling now.  He will not have the national stage when he steps down as President of the USCCB.  His stock in Rome has plummeted since Pope Francis has elevated Cdl, O'Malley as the "go to" American Cardinal.  Dolan will still try to grandstand in NY, but he has no real infuence in the Vatican.  He is fated to do confirmations and schmooze with NY politicians, except of course Andrew Cuomo.

[Dolan] was simply returning money--$70 million of it--to parishes who had it on deposit with the archdiocese.

That parish money presumably is money donated by parishioners to their local parishes.   I don't doubt the archdiocese traditionally has required parishes to deposit their funds in an archdiocesan bank or something similar.  That it also serves as a tantalizing and convenient pot of cash in the eyes of a tort lawyer doesn't change its moral standing.  My view is that, morally, that money belongs to the individual faith communities that deposited it in good faith.  Those parishioners did not donate that money in order to enrich Jeffrey Anderson.  Nor are they responsible, in any way whatsoever, for whatever abuse took place.

If that money is returned to the faith communities to whom, morally, it belongs, it's true that it  would no longer be available to victims.  But undoubtedly, the archdiocese would still be able to come up with millions of dollars for victims - and Anderson.  That should be enough to satisfy the demands of justice.

And the fact is, no amount of money, even $130 million, can undo the abuse that the victims suffered.  

 

Jim Pauwels, typically the damages in a lawsuit are intended not only to compensate the victims, but to  levy a sufficiently burdensome penalty on the offender to make it compelling for the offender to stay on the straight and narrow in the future.

I hate to be a cynic, but I really question whether bad PR on its own would have been sufficient to get the Church to change its ways....

 

Jim H,

Jim H - understood.  My view is that (a) the local parish faith communities are not the offenders, and should not be penalized; and (b) if parish money is excluded from awards, then the archdiocesan funds that are vulnerable to legal awards - which, I am speculating, could still be a substantial amount - are marginally (although still dissatisfactorily) more likely to punish the actual miscreants, which is to say,  the archdiocesan officials who enabled the abuse.  

 

"Some dioceses have, in effect, raided priests’ pension funds to cover [abuse] settlements and other losses .... Under Cardinal Bernard Law, the archdiocese of Boston contributed nothing to its clergy retirement fund between 1986 and 2002, despite receiving an estimated $70m-90m in Easter and Christmas offerings that many parishioners believed would benefit retired priests."

 - http://www.economist.com/node/21560536

sexual-abuse crisis over the past few decades

_________

So if Dolan is the bad guy in all this, was he the bishop there for the past few decades?  Was he the one moving abusers around?

If it wasn't him, who was the bishop who did that?  What's his name and why isn't he the focus here?

To me it's unsettling that both Bernard Law and Timothy Dolan were spoken of as possibly the first popes to be chosen from the United States.  Would the Holy Spirit really have inspired the conclave to elect men whose concern for PR and Church finances outweigh compassion for the abuse victims?

Would the Holy Spirit really have inspired....

 

Angela, I'm sure what you read and hear in news reports only accidentally and occasionally intersects with the work of the Holy Spirit.  And God forgives even if we dont.

Blaming the Vatican is as lame as all the other excuses the bishops make.  What are the names of the Vatican bureacrats who failed to respond to the bishops who "practically begged" them "to speedily laicize abusive priests?"  The bishops knew their names.  They addressed their letters to them.  Why not publish their names in the diocesan paper?  When a priest is removed from a parish and given a new assignment, explain to the people the reason.  "I would like to see this man reduced to the lay state, but the Vatican hasn't responded to my request, so I'm taking him under my wing and assigning him to live here with me in the mansion, working as my gardener/chaplain/chauffeur/chef.   

 

 

The Philly Archdiocese today released a kind of shocking financial report, reflecting huge losses. Among other things, it spent 6.7 million on legal fees around the criminal trial of a priest. The report also revealed bad financiai practices (in the past)  and again reminded us that they have underfunded priests pensions.

Philadelphia is going through another round of parish closings, too, and is auctioning off a lot of Church property. They just closed my parents' parish, which I feel really bad about.

But mostly I think of all of the working people I've known, who gave generously to their Church, even though they didn't have much money themselves   When I think about how the Phildelphia Archdiocese has squandered the widows' mites, I could just cry.

 

 

 

Jim Pauwels' comment of 11:40 is exactly right.  

When I think about how the Phildelphia Archdiocese has squandered the widows' mites, I could just cry.

Nowadays it would be simply irresponsible to give money without asking for accountability. Yet, where I live, people do that. I tell them: "Look! There are no safeguards!" but they shrug. I show the absence of minimal controls and explain that I will withhold donations until things change, but they call me harsh, justify the lack of care of finances by the priests' lack of training or busy schedule, and keep giving money as if they were deaf and dumb.

My view is that, morally, that money belongs to the individual faith communities that deposited it in good faith.  Those parishioners did not donate that money in order to enrich Jeffrey Anderson.  Nor are they responsible, in any way whatsoever, for whatever abuse took place. 

That's not how I see things. We are all tainted by the crimes of a few. Are we in communion or not? Is the Church a community or not? Are we a family of adopted brothers and sisters or not? Are we one? If the answer is yes, then we are responsible for one another, and their failures are our failures too. We have to be willing to carry their faults too: we're all in the same boat.

 

Claire, thank you.

 

We do have a shared responssiblity to abuse surviors. But we also have a responsibility to our children, our sick, our elderly, the poor... the list goes on and on.  They, too, have as much a claim on our resources as abuse survivors.  (And those abuse survivors also have a responsiblity to the poor, needy, etc as well).

There needs to be a fair way to distribute financial resources to the many who need it.  I personally do not see justice done  when dicoesan social service programs are being shut down  and at the same time miliions are given out in settlements to lawsuits. 

It might be interesting to learn how much money Jeff Anderson and the other attorneys have made on these huge lawsuits.  Just saying

Rembert Weakland.  That's his name.  The progressive Rembert Weakland.  He's the one responsible for the mess in Milwaukee.  And not one mention of his name here.

Why the cover-up of Weakland's involvement here?

Irene, I agree about the need for fairness. I was reacting to Jim Pauweis's claim that there was no link "in any way whatsoever" between faith communities and priests who have been shown to commit sexual abuse. I am against "solving" the problem of sexual abuse by declaring loudly that we have nothing to do with the culprits and getting rid of them as fast as possible by forced laicization.  

 

Bender, Abp Weakland is retired and has no official responsibilities any more, and has already been discredited for the way in which he dealt with sexual abuse. In contrast with that, Cdl Dolan has just been elevated to cardinal and, for God's sake, is president of the USCCB! His decisions deserve full scrutiny. 

 

And to add to Claire's point,  Cardinal Dolan's response to the new informtion has been his typical one: to attack the accusers. At least that's what he's been doing on his blog.  He has no humility.

We are all tainted by the crimes of a few. Are we in communion or not? Is the Church a community or not? Are we a family of adopted brothers and sisters or not? Are we one? If the answer is yes, then we are responsible for one another, and their failures are our failures too.

Claire - To pursue this approach to its logical conclusion: if perpetrators' failures are our failures, then in effect we are parties to their crimes, and it would also be right and just for victims to sue us personally, and confiscate our checking accounts, our retirement savings, our houses, our cars, and so on.  If you disagree, then you need to explain why it would be illogical and wrong for victims to be able to do this. 

Or, again: all of us are in communion with Jesus - in fact, arguably, this is the most accurate way to think of how it is that we are in communion with one another.  According to your logic, inasmuch as a perpetrator is in communion with Jesus, then Jesus is responsible for the perpetrator's crime (because we are responsible for one another, and a perpetrator's failure is Jesus' failure, too).  Are you prepared to argue that clerical sexual abuse is a failure on the part of Jesus?

Or again: there are over one billion Catholics in the world.  Are all of us responsible for all of the misdeeds of our fellow Catholics?  There have to be millions of Catholics who are charged with crimes at any given point in time. Are you willing to serve jail time, in the spirit of "their failures are our failures", because one of your fellow Catholics robbed a bank?

 

I am against "solving" the problem of sexual abuse by declaring loudly that we have nothing to do with the culprits and getting rid of them as fast as possible by forced laicization.

If you don't want to get rid of predators in your midst, then what would you do with them?  For decades, the church tried not getting rid of them, and the result is the scandal that never goes away.  Not long ago, we discussed the Newark Archdiocese's mishandling of Fr. Fugee - a case study of what happens when a diocese doesn't get rid of a sexual abuser.

For the sake of clarity, I want to note that I've never claimed that laicizing offending clergy will solve, or "solve", the problem of sexual abuse.  I don't know how to solve that problem completely.  But I do think it's monumentally foolish for a diocese to keep abusers around.  A wife whose husband abuses her and the children is urged, begged, to divorce him, take custody of the children, file a restraining order against him, and have criminal charges filed against him.  In my view, the parallel between that situation and the situation of a diocese with an abusive member of the clergy is pretty apt.

 

Guess one can separate funds in a total diocesean budget and, in one's mind, think that the cemetery fund is separate from the diocesan budget that might be held in bankruptcy hearings - but, couldn't you take each element of a diocesan budget and set up as a separate, dedicated fund; thus, almost no diocesan money when you are finished.  Seems like an accounting trick since cemetery fund deposits for churchs were not required in the state.

What saddens me are two points:

- per agreed upon history, Dolan spent a year as auxiliary in STL reading thru the abuse/clerical files - he lost weight, couldn't sleep, described it as his personal Lenten journey, etc.  Yet, once a bishop, this experience does not seem to have led to many pastoral or good outcomes.

- he started out in Milwaukee with the above experience and even began by working with SNAP.  But, he quickly pulled back from this and eventually saw SNAP as the enemy.  Despite his talk, vicitms continued to be last in consideration; he continued to seek laicization rather than the good of the whole community;he did very little in terms of victims outreach.

Finally, whoever said that Weakland caused this didn't read all of the files posted.  Only 18 of the named abusers came after 1965 in terms of ordination - the problems had been around for decades before Weakland.

 

Bender --

So Archbishop Weakland was a progressive -- so what?  Ideology is irrelevant when it comes to the scandal.  Look at Cardinals Law, Bevilaqua, Rigali and Mahony -- do you think they handled their scandal problems abominably *because* they were conservatives?  Nonsense.

And people wonder why the balance of the non-Catholic world just smirks about the concept of "credibility" with respect to (at least) the institutional US Catholic Church.

I don't even try to answer questions or dispute even outrageous accusations.  This week's outrageousness may most likely be next week's new revelations.

Am I totally disgusted ... and almost out the door permanently?  Yep.

An article in Forbes ...  http://www.forbes.com/sites/jayadkisson/2013/07/03/bankrupt-milwaukee-ar... ...  says the statute of limitations may not have run on this apparently fraudulent act.

Jim Pauweis, no, I don't want to take it to an extreme. I'm not one to be willing to undergo crucifixion because of someone else's sin. But taking a measured share of the consequences, yes.

If you don't want to get rid of predators in your midst, then what would you do with them?

Personally, I would advocate transparency: telling people, maybe in the parish bulletin, that Fr. X has arrived in their midst because he's been found guilty of sex abuse.  They're adult, they should be able to figure out how to handle it. (If I were there as a parent, I would simply tell my kids about it and tell them matter-of-factedly that they must not be alone with him. No big deal.)

 

 

Oh. I see my earlier wording may have given the impression you had claimed the problem would be solved by laicization. But you never claimed that and I hadn't intended to suggest you did. Thanks for the clarification.

His stock in Rome has plummeted since Pope Francis has elevated Cdl, O'Malley as the "go to" American Cardinal.  Dolan will still try to grandstand in NY, but he has no real infuence in the Vatican.  He is fated to do confirmations and schmooze with NY politicians, except of course Andrew Cuomo. "s

Now Dolan is out in Rome and here. A sad commentary on a JP II bishop who got it from both sides. 

Personally, I would advocate transparency: telling people, maybe in the parish bulletin, that Fr. X has arrived in their midst because he's been found guilty of sex abuse.  They're adult, they should be able to figure out how to handle it.

Claire, first of all - I apologize.  My comments to you yesterday, the first in particular, were too strong.  I'm sorry for crossing the line of civility.

If the Dallas charter functions as it is supposed to in a particular diocese (it seems the review board failed in the Fugee / Newark case), then a reasonable expectation is that, if Fr. X has been found guilty of sex abuse, the review board should also have found that the accusation against X is credible, and the bishop should have removed him from ministry.  Thus, Fr. X "arriving in their midst" wouldn't be via a normal clergy assignment. 

I don't think the Dallas charter mandates laicization proceedings; what to do with clergy who have been removed from ministry becomes the bishop's problem, and my own view is that bishops have no good options except laicization.  There is ample evidence that clergy removed from ministry can't be trusted to exercise good judgment without supervision, and that the church is really bad at supervising these guys.  There are no diocesan jails or monasteries in which to stow abusers away.  And as long as the clergy remains affiliated with the diocese, the diocese is liable for his misbehavior.  

 

 

 

Last night's CNN "Beauty and the Priest' doc about a Church cover- up of a priest's rapei and murderiof  a young beauty will  keep  the sneering and smirking Jim McCrea points out  going on and on.  .And the minimizing, deflecting and blaming tort lawyers  on this and other blogs is a sad  example of total denial.  My Church officials covered-up crimes for years ..... ..say it and then own it??

A. Andreassi: the bishops knew who the molesters were, and so did the molesters themselves; it was only the rank and file Catholics who were kept in the dark.  Only BECAUSE of lawyers who were brave enough to sue the Church did the faithful learn of the extent and even the existence of sexual predation by priests.  The lawyers who represent victims are doing a public service, and they deserve what they've earned.

 

No problem Jim P. You never cross the line where I am concerned, that is, you're more polite than me, so I'll never complain about your style (note: I say style, I don't say content!). In fact I appreciate your ability to take some heat and still stay civil.

 

So, now Dolan has posted on his blog a statement entitled - *Groundless Rumors*

Beyond his summation of the millions belonging to Milwaukee parishes, he attempts to explain the cemetery fund.

Contrary to what is stated here and repeated from Anderson, Dolan matter-of-factly says that the cemetery fund was legal, followed the advice of his financial advisors, and necessary according to state law.

Yet, this contradicts other *facts*:

- the diocese was not required to follow the state law?

- the setting up of funds, etc. started a few years before he wrote to Rome for permission to move the money?  (is this consistent and constant with his advisors)

- even if his advisors did make this recommendation, it is his decision.  Does he follow every recommendation from his adviosrs?

- finally, he fails to respond to Anderson's point that Milwaukee's legal advisors are the ones who actually persuaded Dolan to amend his statements to be more victim centered and conciliatory?

So, who is telling the truth?

As Cardinal Tomothy Dolan, once again denies transferring millions of dollars into a cemetery trust fund to hide these assets from victims of clergy abuse, this piece clearly lifts the fog he again tries to perpetuate, his official response is a smoke screen meant to confuse the faithful, but his explanation clearly doesn't wash. Needing to put so much money (more than twice the annual 25 million dollar budget of the Milwaukee Archdiocese) to ensure the preservation of a few cemeteries is more than overkill. It was burying the assets...no pun intended.

A. Andreassi --"It might be interesting to learn how much money Jeff Anderson and the other attorneys have made on these huge lawsuits.  Just saying"

Fr. Andreassi -- it would be "interesting" to know how much Mr. Anderson has made.  I am sure his firm has made quite a lot of money since he started working on these cases in 1983.  Not sure, however, how it is ultimately relevant or all that important.

Anderson took up this issue long before it looked like there was a likely chance of huge settlements or court awards. 

But for the work of Anderson and others, would the Church have even begun to compensate victims, remove predators and made safeguarding children its highest priority?  Seeing how the Church dealt with known predators for decades prior to the lawsuits, I have my doubts that anything would have changed.  Because of this  I am grateful that Anderson and others doggedly forced the issue and the Church in the US has begun to face this issue.  Without Anderson (and others) would we have the Dallas Charter?

In my eyes, the sad truth is that our Church leadership failed miserably at protecting children. The  contingency awards paid to Anderson and others are simply part of the price we have to pay to make up for this outrageous sin.

One more point on this topic -- when you have to turn to Bill Donohue as your defender, things are not going well.

http://cardinaldolan.org/index.php/comments-from-william-a-donohue-ph-d/

 

more interesting is how much have church attorneys and paid lobbyists have been paid by the church.  You can figure out how much victims attorney's have been paid, roughly 1 third of settlements.  The Bishops certainly don't want you to know how much their very highly paid lawyers and lobbyists are paid by YOUR DONATIONS. 

More importantly, if clergy weren't molesting children while bishops pretended to know nothing while playing musical parishes, putting countless children back in harms way, then we wouldn't be talking about litagation or lawyers would we. 

Where is that cemetery money supposed to have come from in the first place?  Sunday second collections?  Philantropists who wanted to be sure that the grass was well cut on mom and pops' graves?  Gimme a break. 

Ann - I know nothing about cemetery operating budgets or investment requirements or how much money should be set aside for their needs.  I assume, though, that a cemetery system needs to have at least some money for long-range planning; the Milwaukee Archdiocese presumably has hundreds of thousands of people, all of whom will die some day and need to be buried.  Whether $60 million is the right amount or an excessive amount (or, conceivably, an insufficient amount) is something that I suppose Anderson would have to argue out in court with archdiocesan lawyers.

If those funds are legitimately for cemetery needs, though, then why would victims and their lawyers have a superior moral claim to the entirety of those funds over and above the people of the archdiocese?  Recall that burying the dead is a corporal work of mercy.  It's something we must do.

Anderson's legal theory seems to be: $1 million dollars for a victim (and him) is just; $10 million dollars for a victim (and him) is more just; $100 million dollars for a victim (and him) is even more just.  But why would that be so?  Will $100 million roll back the incidents and damage of sexual abuse more than $10 million?  Or $1 million?  I don't see how that can possibly be the case.  

Will a loss of $100 million punish the miscreants to a greater extent than a loss of $1 million?  If it impoverishes parishes and/or the cemetery system, it will punish the people of the archdiocese.  But the people of the archdiocese are not the perpetrators; individual abusive clergy and, possibly, individual archdiocesan officials who were negligent or were enablers, are the perpetrators.  And those perpetrators are not punished, at all, whether the amount paid by the people of the archdiocese is $1 milion or $10 million or $100 million.

I expect, by the way, that Anderson does the same amount of work whether his client is awarded $1 million or $10 million or $100 million.  

I don't think it's unseemly or immoral for any bishop to (legally) shield money that, morally, belongs to the people of a diocese, from the grasp of contingency-fee enterpreneurial attorneys.  Mark Silk writes as though it's an obvious case of chicanery - so obvious that he doesn't bother to explain why it's wrong.  Not only is it not obvious - I don't see that it's wrong at all.  If that cemetery money or parish money isn't really completely for cemeteries or parishes, then make that case.  If the case can't be made, then it seems to me that, morally, it should be off-limits for Anderson's shark attacks.

 

This 'Forbes' writer thinks the transfer may be ruled fraudulent.

http://www.forbes.com/sites/jayadkisson/2013/07/03/bankrupt-milwaukee-ar...

Unfortunately it is very clear that our church leadership ONLY responds when it is faced with a financial impact.  This is NOT about contingency lawyers earning their fees.  Jim, I haven't seen you write one word about all the lawyers and lobbyists each diocese hires to fight victims, to oppose any changes to statute of limitations.  I'm pretty sure they earn far more than the victims lawyers.  In fact look at the staggering millions spent on defending Monsignor Lynn of Philadelphia, more than 6 million for that 1 case.  Then there is the much greater sum spent to defend Bishop Finn of Kansas City who pled guilty to child endangerment. 

You may think it just fine to deny people sexually abused as children by clergy, clergy that in many many cases were known to thier bishops as predators but it is simply immoral.  Further more imporatnt than the money spent to cover these settlements is the fact that when and if a victim even gets to court (very few cases do), discovery of even more damning evidence is often produced.  Now thats why church officials get real heartburn, the truth revealed will show their callous disregard for the children who were in their care.  I recall the one tiome Christ was angry in the Bible, when he threw the money changers out of the temple.  Our church is not a for-profit business, but it certainly acts like one.  On second though, even for profit business understand risk and loss and take action to ensure it is not repeated...unlike our Church leaders.

 

Speaking of the resources of an diocese belonging to the people of the diocese sounds so democratic and egalitarian.  The reality is quite different of course.  We Catholics hand over our dough to a very non-egalitarian structure,with a local ordinary having absolute, nearly unfettered control.  To pretend otherwise is disingenuous.  This money was Archbishop Cousins's/Weakland's/Dolan's/Listecki's.  Victims of their bad decisions have every right go after these resources because Catholics handed it over without demanding accountability.  Perhaps we will start demanding accountability in the future and then maybe we'd have an argument that large awards and settlements to victims are   unfair punishment of people in the pews. 

Grant - thanks for that link to the Forbes article.  So to summarize the picture that the plaintiffs are  painting:

* Dolan transferred as much as $130 million out of archdiocesan accounts - breaking up a lot of it into individual parish accounts, and moving $57 million into a cemetery trust fund

* Draining the archdiocese of $130 million in cash is precisely what propelled the archdiocese into bankruptcy (which, according to the Forbes article, occurred in 2011)

* According to the bankruptcy laws, this would constitute a fraudulent transfer (bankruptcy laws apparently don't give two figs for my strenuous arguments of moral rectitude :-))

* The "smoking gun" in all this is the statement from Dolan to the Vatican, seeking permission to transfer money into the cemetery trust, that he is doing so to provide "protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability." 

Is that about the size of it?

If that is right - sounds like the bankruptcy judge will be busy sorting it all out.

The note that doesn't ring true is Anderson's claim that the $130 million was to be used to pay off priests to make them go away.  I know we've discussed that before, here at dotCom.  Whatever the merits of paying priests to go away, I don't think it happened at such a scale that it required $130 million, did it?

 

Jim P you may have doubts that the transfers were to avoid law suits but the NYT editorial  today says Dolan has been  caught dead wrong........th transfers will be the basis of a law suit anyway..  

http://www.nytimes.com/2013/07/04/opinion/cardinal-dolan-and-the-sex-abuse-scandal.html?src=rechp

Attorneys will say whatever they can to get their clients what they want. That is what lawyers do. If the Forbes piece is right, the judge won't have much trouble sorting this out. 

Jim, I haven't seen you write one word about all the lawyers and lobbyists each diocese hires to fight victims, to oppose any changes to statute of limitations.  I'm pretty sure they earn far more than the victims lawyers.

Mark, in fact, I've commented here a number of times here specifically about changes to statutes of limitations - doing so is unjust.

Regarding the amounts spent by dioceses on legal fees: if victims sue dioceses, dioceses have a right and an obligation to defend themselves.  I have no way of knowing whether dioceses spend more, or plaintiffs' attorneys spend more, or if it's about the same, but whatever the figures, it's yet another compelling reason to minimize the pursuit of legal remedies.

There are many problems with victims suing dioceses.  I don't disagree that some of it has been necessary for the reasons that you and others state.  Yet there are also problems - and near the top of the list is the potential to create a new class of victims: the people of the diocese.  We can add to that list: the people who rely on diocesan social programs.

As far as I know, Dolan did not oversee the abuse of any of these victims in Milwaukee.  He came into Milwaukee in 2002.  Whatever abuse happened before that time - according to NCR, eight decades' worth -  to put it bluntly, was not his fault.  Even so, he did not have the luxury of ignoring the big, steaming pile of issues his predecessors left him.  So he went about cleaning it up.  Perhaps he committed fraud in doing so; if so, he should be castigated for that (and should suffer whatever legal penalties come with it).  If he did commit fraud, I assume the bankruptcy court or another court will let us know, sooner or later.  But he has other obligations besides paying off victims and their attorneys.  He had a moral duty to victims, and a moral duty to the people of the archdiocese, and many other moral duties besides, and he needed to balance all of those duties as best as he could.  Perhaps he wasn't very competent at it; if he left parish funds vulnerable to cash grabs by Anderson and his ilk, then shame on Dolan and archdiocesan officials.

 

This money was Archbishop Cousins's/Weakland's/Dolan's/Listecki's.  Victims of their bad decisions have every right go after these resources because Catholics handed it over without demanding accountability. 

Jack, I understand the emotional appeal of this argument, but I've never found it - that the people of a diocese "deserve" to have their diocese looted because the church isn't a very accountable organization - a very compelling one.  By that logic, the people also "deserve" it if their bishop spends diocesan money on hookers, or pays it to a blackmailer.  The fact is, the people deserve none of these things.  

The church is sufficiently accountable, or isn't, regardless of whether victims were abused.  Victims' claims should be judged on their own merits, not used as some crude bludgeon to club the Catholic church for other reasons.

 

Jim P you may have doubts that the transfers were to avoid law suits 

If you think that is what I have been saying, you haven't followed my arguments - or perhaps I haven't written them very clearly.  I don't doubt that bishops and dioceses do all sorts of things to limit their liability for all sorts of reasons, including liability to victims of sexual abuse.  I'd be angry if they didn't.  In doing this, I do think they should obey just laws.

 

- per agreed upon history, Dolan spent a year as auxiliary in STL reading thru the abuse/clerical files - he lost weight, couldn't sleep, described it as his personal Lenten journey, etc.  Yet, once a bishop, this experience does not seem to have led to many pastoral or good outcomes. 

What are we to make of that? How can that be explained? He learned, then he un-learned? What can we do about it? 

In fact look at the staggering millions spent on defending Monsignor Lynn of Philadelphia, more than 6 million for that 1 case.  Then there is the much greater sum spent to defend Bishop Finn of Kansas City who pled guilty to child endangerment.  

Those weren't victim lawsuits.  Those were criminal prosecutions by the state.  To the best I can recall, I've never objected to either one, nor defended either defendant's conduct.  (I have seen some things commented here suggesting that Lynn was railroaded, but those comments didn't come from me, and I don't know enough about the specifics of Lynn's case to have an opinion; unless I learn otherwise, my opinion is that justice has been done).  FWIW, I think both convictions stand as salutary warnings to other bishops and diocesan officials - and to any clergy or church employee.

For that matter, I've never defended any instance of abuse, or any coverup, or any enablement by a diocese, that seems credible.  All of these things fill me with revulsion.  But I think jackpot justice is bad for the church for many reasons, and probably a mixed blessing at best for victims, and I'd like to see both sides pursue less adversarial ways of bringing about justice.

 

 

Im,

If it's legitmate for you to speculate about the cost of maintaining the Milwaukee cemeteries, then it's legitimate for me to speculate about it too.  And the issue I was talking about is whether or not the Cardinal told a lie, not whether he should protect the diocese's capital.

I'm quite sure that the costs to the Archdiocese of New Orleans to maintain our Catholic cemeteries are much higher than the costs of maintaining cemeteries in other American cities.  The reason is because ours are prime tourist targets that dozens and dozens  of thousands of tourists visit each year.  (We generally bury people in tombs and some of the tombs are works of art.)  It so happens that this very week our archbishop published his yearly report on finances, and I looked it over.  I certainly didn't notice any outlay of millions of dollars for the cemeteries which would have required the income from $57 million.  The claim that Milwaukee needs the income from $57M for its cemeteries is preposterous.  In other words, somebody is lying about what that $57M is actually used for.

You can argue that the Milwaukee bishop had a right -- even a duty --  to protect the money, but it seems to me that protecting the diocese of  Milwaukee from lawsuits  is not on a par with, say,  protecting Jews from the Nazis.  This lie was not justified, especially since it was against the law.

What I wonder about is how C. Dolan could have been so stupid as to think he'd get away with such a lie.  Is he one of those people who thinks he can talk his way out of any corner?

When it comes to humility in the leadership of this church, there are too few Francises and way too many Dolans.  Way too many.

Re:  Bill deHaas July 4, 2013 - 12:26pm

When Alan Vigneron was Bishop of Oakland, he attempted to attach diocesan cemetery funds for some other uses.

At the time he was told by the director of said fund that those funds were assets of a separately constituted 501(c)3 corporation and if AV tried to touch them, he would be sued.  (I got this directly from the fund director and have no reason not to believe him.)

AV demurred.

Now THAT is how things should be done.

Rev. Mr. Pauwels -- what I am saying is we deserve a more accountable Church.  We deserve more of a say in our leaders.  If we are going to continue with a top down model where all power to appoint bishops comes from Rome -- at the very least there should be limits and checks and balances.  There should be boards of lay people who have real power on a diocesan level and the faithful should elect these boards.  These boards don't have to touch issues of doctrine, theology, dogma, etc. -- but real oversight on more temporal issues should be in place.

 

Another keeper, Grant.

Is fraud a misdemeanor or a felony when it gets to $57 million?

As for Jeff Anderson, he is one of my heroes, and deserves every cent.

"ROLLING IN CASES (NOT CASH)

On the heels of the Globe’s revelations, Anderson’s phone rang continuously. Clients, usually referred by lawyers who knew of him, came from all over.

At the time, his practice was costing a lot more mon­ey than it was bringing in. His work had gotten tougher after a Minnesota Supreme Court ruling in 1996 that narrowly interpreted a law giving plaintiffs six years to file suit after discovering they were injured by sexual abuse. Anderson had lobbied for the expanded statute of limitations, which passed in its original form in 1989. Black­o­wiak v. Kemp, 546 N.W.2d 1.

By 2002, his 12-lawyer firm, Reinhardt & Anderson, had nearly tapped out its credit lines. Debt ran into the millions of dollars. While some of the other lawyers worked cases with Anderson, the firm’s specialty was antitrust and class actions.

“I pledged all my personal assets, and the others were very much opposed to the amount of money I was spend­ing, and we were in significant financial distress,”

Ander­son explains. “They said, ‘You’ve got to stop doing this,’ and we split in an acrimonious divorce.”

Yes, I hope he is making significant money to expand his practice. I believe he was almost kidnapped in Mexico when he went there to help a victim. Supposed immigration agents showed up at his hotel, saying he should come with them for violating his visa, and he was about to escorted out with supposed agents. Someone with his group phoned the police, who showed up in time to take him immediately to the airport to get him out of the country.
  

See him on a panel in NYC recently: http://www.booktv.org/Program/14526/Mortal+Sins+Sex+Crime+and+the+Era+of+Catholic+Scandal.aspx

Impressive, all of them on the panel.

I've called Jeff for help for survivors and he is fearless. He also knows every chancery trick in the book. His fuel is the way bishops treat survivors, and he is just mad enough to see that their d_mnable lies are challenged.

Bless "Anderson and his ilk."

Jim P: I know we differ, and that is reality. I just felt the need to offer a counter view about Anderson. 

 

Carolyn - right, we differ, but we also agree on much.  I'm grateful for your comments.

Carolyn --

Thanks for the information about Anderson.  So much for the "greedy lawyer" trope (though I don't doubt there are some of those).  Anderson deserves a medal, not slander.

All the talk of financial accountability means little and will come to nothing unless the people who provide the money have some real control over how it is used. That means parish and diocesan councils that can do more than offer advice; that can actually authorize expenditures or, at the least, veto them.

Bishops will never willingly relinquish even a power they are not well suited to exercise. So the only practical alternative to an unsatisfactory status quo is to withhold contributions or to redirect them to worthwhile organizations that are accountable. Call it the Leverage of the Sheep.

Ann - the comment about Dolan's STL history.  Here is why I don't think he learned anything:  To borrow from a truism, you have to talk the talk and walk the walk.  Dolan is very good at talking the talk but his walking the walk is significantly influenced by his clerical stance; church is hierarchy stance; ambition driven persona.  Thus, when push came to shove in Milwaukee, Dolan was most comfortable in the role of protector of the institution; priest/abuser came first; clerical instincts and clerical family came first.  Whether we like it or not, clerical abusers are part of Dolan's diocesan family - this is what he will protect first;  his role as *spiritual father* to victims comes second.  It is an eternal tension and the people of God, children, lose out.  Remember when, in 2002, Bishop Wilton Gregory's chancellor, a married father of three or more kids, wrote a very personal appeal letter as Gregory headed to Dallas.  It obviously was written by a father (or mother) in terms of the need to protect children first and always.  (Think Carolyn Disco has published the link before).  Compare that to any bishop in terms of their language, actions, feelings.  (it is the rare cleric who can react as a biological father/mother does).  Thus, Dolan has to make a choice - does his diocesan family come first or his clerical family?  And you know how that internal and very personal struggle usually plays out.   Interesting info about SF cemetery fund - yet, that was set up completely separately from any type of pendiing bankruptcy decisions....unlike Dolan and Milwaukee.  JP - if my memory serves me, the public posting of the LA archdiocesan abuse settlement, indicated that archdiocesan lawyers were paid, at minimum, $20-$30 million range over 5+ years and may have made twice that because archdiocesan spending audits do not reveal all of the LA costs or spending details - much is hidden; buried under a heading with little specific details, etc.  And this at a time when Mahoney is laying off a few hundred diocesan employees; closing important departments e.g. hispanic outreach/education; cutting back on religious education; etc. Not sure I get your distinction between an abuser case and Monsignor Lynn's case because Lynn was being prosecuted.....all abuse cases are criminal and prosections.  Difference is that Philly, for the most part, paid for Lynn's defense team....it is rare for a bishop to pay the defense team of an accused clerical abuser.  So, that is an episcopal decision - has nothing to do with a DA or folks such as Jeff Anderson.

Bill deH. --

No doubt you're right about C. Dolan and his diocesan family.  But in his case especially I think there is also his immaturity at play.  I see him as a sometimes charming 10-year-old boy in a 60-year-old body.  His tribe is his gang, and he is their fearless leader responsible for protecting them all from the howling Indians who are circling their camp.  

I've noticed in the last year or so that when the hierarchy talks about reforming the seminaries they talk a great deal about the immaturity of some seminarians.  I suspect this immaturity problem has been going on for a lot longer than they would admit.  But it's not their fault entirely.  The RCC doesn't really encourage maturity very much in anybody.   

Bill DeH:  the fund I talked about was/is in the diocese of Oakland, not SF.  I don't know if there have been any changes since the time I mentioned.  I most certainly hope not.

I don't see how obtaining damages incurred as a result of wrongful conduct constitutes looting of diocesan assets.  Do members of parishes within the diocese "deserve" what ends up being their diminished capacity to do good or to fund schools?  In a larger sense, no, no more than I would deserve to lose the equity in my house if my husband injured someone in a car accident for which we have insufficient insurance.  But I would be less deserving of continuing my ownership of said assets than the wronged party.  It's all relative, and the fact that people contribute unconditionally weakens their continuing claim to the disposition those assets (just as it would in any other situation with donated property).  Their expectations (for instance, to the continued operation of their parish school) are not grounded in any legal entitlement (as it might have been if they had established a trust that funded school expenses, for instance).  Their main recourse is to stop donating. 

Not sure I get your distinction between an abuser case and Monsignor Lynn's case because Lynn was being prosecuted.....all abuse cases are criminal and prosections. 

Hi, Bill, the difference in this instance is that a state prosecutor / district attorney is paid by the government and earns a fixed salary, whereas a civil lawsuit frequently is taken on a contingency basis.  The prospect of a large award is an economic incentive for plaintiff attorneys - who, as Caroline rightly points out, also bear the financial risk if the venture (the lawsuit) doesn't work out in plaintiff's favor.  I don't mean to come across as overly critical of the contingency fee system, as I believe that in many cases (including, I'd expect, in at least some if not most of the cases in which a diocese is sued) it serves as a workable way to get the case of a poor plaintiff into court with a realistic chance of getting justice done against a powerful defendant with deep pockets.  (For this reason, I'm generally opposed to legislative proposals to cap damage awards).

It does gall me, though, that funds collected by a parish for a parish are vulnerable to plaintiff awards, when that parish has no direct connection at all to either the plaintiff or the abusive cleric.  Nor do I see that a particular diocese has a responsibility to make up for Jeff Anderson's lean years because he wasn't as good at his craft when he sued some other dioceses.  

 

"It does gall me, though, that funds collected by a parish for a parish are vulnerable to plaintiff awards, when that parish has no direct connection at all to either the plaintiff or the abusive cleric."

 

This is a common but inaccurate understanding of Church legal structures and finances. 

Typically, the Parish and all of its assets belong to the Diocese, which is incorporated as a "Corporation Sole (in most states)"  The only shareholder, officer and director of that corporation is the Bishop.  All Parish assets, as a legal matter, belong to the bishop.  No matter what any parishioner was told, promised or led to believe, all donations are available for the personal use of the bishop as he sees fit in his discretion.  Obviously, under this legal structure, a judgment against the bishop can be satisfied out of any or all of the assets under the bishop's control.  This rule applies to all persons who have lost a lawsuit.

It doens't have to be that way.  The Church chose this legal structure, aware of the legal consequences.  As an alternative, the Church could set up each parish as a separate corporation.  If it had done so, then each parish woudl be liable for its own debts only and the assets of one parish woudl not be used to satisfy a judgment against the bishop.  Of course, the bishop would then lose the ability to financially coerce doctrinal purity under such a structure  (See Baptist churches).  The loss of that ability presents a greater danger to the bishop's power than having all assets in the diocese available for the rare judgment.

Essentially, Dolan was attempting to set up a separate entity after the fact for the cemetery fund.  That's legally frowned upon, especially in bankruptcy court.

Just know that your donations are for use at the Bishop's sole discretion, if you chose to make them.  You would be mistaken if you thought the donations could be earmaked for a particular purpose and shielded from legal liability.  That's why I donate zero dollars to the Parish.  I donate to separate corporations such as Catholic Worker, Project Rachel and St. Vincent De Paul

"It does gall me, though, that funds collected by a parish for a parish are vulnerable to plaintiff awards, when that parish has no direct connection at all to either the plaintiff or the abusive cleric."

If you find it galling, then perhaps you should at least identify the correct target for your anger, and that is the person who left the diocese and its parishes exposed to such judgments, which would be, first, the offending priest, second, the bishop who failed to deal with the situation appropriately, and third, whoever set up the "all for one, one for all" legal structure of the enterprise.  Most corporations are very careful to segregate distinct economic units into separate legal entity status for a whole host of reasons, and that's just one of them.  Indeed, this catastrophe has been walking in slow motion for the last two going on three decades, and any diocese in the country had plenty of time to protect parishes through adopting a different legal entity structure to avoid this result.  It isn't the fault of people wronged by priests and Church officials that they were derelict about this as well.  (Bankruptcy only prevents transfers that are close in time to the bankruptcy -- if the diocesan funds had been transferred to the cemetary fund far enough in advance, it would not have been a problem.)

Add new comment

You may login with your assigned e-mail address.
The password field is case sensitive.

Or log in with...

Add new comment