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Paying Off Pervert Priests

They were paid to go away in Milwaukee, the NYT reports:

Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York authorized payments of as much as $20,000 to sexually abusive priests as an incentive for them to agree to dismissal from the priesthood when he was the archbishop of Milwaukee.

Questioned at the time about the news that one particularly notorious pedophile cleric had been given a “payoff” to leave the priesthood, Cardinal Dolan, then the archbishop, responded that such an inference was “false, preposterous and unjust.”

But a document unearthed during bankruptcy proceedings for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee and made public by victims’ advocates reveals that the archdiocese did make such payments to multiple accused priests to encourage them to seek dismissal, thereby allowing the church to remove them from the payroll.

A spokesman for the archdiocese confirmed on Wednesday that payments of as much as $20,000 were made to “a handful” of accused priests “as a motivation” not to contest being defrocked. The process, known as “laicization,” is a formal church juridical procedure that requires Vatican approval, and can take far longer if the priest objects.

“It was a way to provide an incentive to go the voluntary route and make it happen quickly, and ultimately cost less,” said Jerry Topczewski, the spokesman for the archdiocese. “Their cooperation made the process a lot more expeditious.”

Cardinal Dolan, who is president of the national bishops’ conference and fast becoming the nation’s most high-profile Roman Catholic cleric, did not respond to several requests for comment.

I don’t think this is quite as bad as it seems. If the quickest way to get these dirtbags off the church payroll and out of the priesthood was to pay them to go away, is that really such a bad solution? Ideally abuser priests wouldn’t have received a dime, but the church has laicization procedures that protect falsely accused priests. These are important. I can understand Archbishop Dolan making a prudent decision that the cost, financially and otherwise, that following this procedure, versus paying the priests off, wasn’t worth it. But he pretty clearly lied about it to the public.

The reader who passed this story along added:

I’ll be sure to remember that when I see him on TV pontificating about being persecuted by the Obama administration over “religious liberty”.

His moral authority?  NIL.

The religious freedom argument does not stand or fall based on the personal moral character of Cardinal Dolan. If he were the second coming of Francis of Assisi, it wouldn’t make a bit of difference, logically speaking. Religious liberty isn’t only for religious people who behave well.

Politically, though, this stuff matters.

about the author

Rod Dreher is a senior editor at The American Conservative. He has written and edited for the New York Post, The Dallas Morning News, National Review, the South Florida Sun-Sentinel, the Washington Times, and the Baton Rouge Advocate. Rod’s commentary has been published in The Wall Street Journal, Commentary, the Weekly Standard, Beliefnet, and Real Simple, among other publications, and he has appeared on NPR, ABC News, CNN, Fox News, MSNBC, and the BBC. He lives in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, with his wife Julie and their three children. He has also written four books, The Little Way of Ruthie Leming, Crunchy Cons, How Dante Can Save Your Life, and The Benedict Option.

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