WYD Mass with Archbishop Timothy DolanIt’s been about a decade since the Catholic clerical child-abuse scandal hit the United States. During that time, Catholic hierarchs here have not handled it well. Most recently they’ve resolved not to accept criticism any more: they’ve decided to blame it all on society, or worse, on the child victims; some of them no longer accept that there had been any wrongdoing; others have hurled the slur of “anti-Catholic” at media outlets that dare continue reporting on it (cached); and recently they’ve launched a political and societal pushback campaign in order to regain the authority and influence they lost because of their refusal to deal properly with abusive clergy.

What one never sees from them, is a plain, simple, contrite, and candid admission of fault. Their patttern of behavior … over a period of decades … has been to move the abusers so they won’t be caught and silence the victims so no one hears about the abuse.

But as though these weren’t bad enough on their own, it seems one hierarch in particular — and possibly others — have used yet another tactic: To bribe abusive priests into leaving the clergy and keeping quiet about what they did. Another term for this which you may have heard about, is “hush money.” ABC News reports that the current Cardinal Timothy Dolan, archbishop of New York, used precisely this tactic, back when he was archbishop of Milwaukee (WebCite cached article):

Cardinal Timothy Dolan of the archdiocese of New York is keeping quiet today after his old diocese, the archdiocese of Milwaukee, confirmed that under his leadership the church paid individual sums of $20,000 to priests accused of molesting children.

Dolan, who became a cardinal in February and serves as the head of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is recorded discussing the payments in the minutes of financial committee meetings in 2003, documents released as the Milwaukee archdioecese goes through bankruptcy court in Wisconsin.

The archdiocese of Milwaukee confirmed to the Associated Press Wednesday that the church paid the priests money to voluntarily sign papers to leave the priesthood because it was cheaper and faster than removing them by other administrative routes, which would have included going through the Vatican.

The reason cited for this, was in order to get rid of the abusive priests quickly:

“In 2002, the Church affirmed that priest offenders should no longer be functioning as priests in any capacity and having someone seek laicization voluntarily is faster and less expensive and it made sense to try and move these men out of the priesthood as quickly as possible,” Archdiocese spokeswoman Julie Wolf told local news station WTMJ-TV.

Here’s accompanying video, courtesy of ABC News:

This scenario triggers a couple of questions. First, the overall R.C. hierarchy handles the process of laicization, which happens via canon law. As such, the nature of that process itself is under the hierarchs’ control. If that process is so long and arduous as to be unusable, then why didn’t they instead simply alter that process and make it quicker?

Second, if they were so eager to get these guys out of the Church, they must have been fully aware of their criminality and convinced of their guilt. If that’s the case, why did they not also want to turn them over to the police?

Once again, documentary revelations allow us to peer deep into the seedy side of the Roman Catholic Church. The picture they paint is not a pretty one. I continue to be amazed that so many Catholics in the US have remained so steadfastly loyal to an organization which clearly has degraded into amorality. When are they finally going to admit their Church is a stinking cesspool? When are they going to seize control of their own Church and wrench it back into shape? What are they waiting for? What more evidence do they need?

Hat tip: Mark at Skeptics & Heretics Forum on Delphi Forums.

Photo credit: Lawrence OP, via Flickr.

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