Cardinal Timothy Dolan, in his blog Gospel in the Digital Age, warned New Yorkers this week that they may soon be seeing his name cast in an unfavorable light in the media. The Archdiocese of St. Louis, where he served as auxiliary bishop for a year in 2001-2002, has just been ordered by a court to release documents regarding clergy abuse cases.
Before you get too excited about that, though, let me assure you that the Cardinal assures us he’s been forthright and has done nothing wrong.
On February 18, just before departing for the Consistory in Rome, Cardinal Dolan published a letter to Catholics in the Archdiocese of New York explaining the situation. He wrote:
“…you know how I always try to alert you to any potentially negative publicity about the Church, or about me. Well, there could be some. My home archdiocese of St. Louis just complied with a court order to release the documents regarding cases there of sexual abuse of minors. (Cardinal Egan already did that here a decade ago, sharing all of the information we had on abusive priests with proper district attorneys, something we continue to do today.)
Anyway, since I was an auxiliary bishop in St. Louis for a year (2001-02), and vicar for priests for nine of those twelve months, I would anticipate that my name will again be highlighted in the press. I sure have nothing to hide, and am very much at peace with law enforcements officials reviewing the files. In fact, we already released all the documentation to them a dozen years ago!
This will be, I suspect, a repeat of last year’s attempt by the same tort lawyers to muddy my name. A year ago, they contended- – remember?- -that while Archbishop of Milwaukee I had “hidden funds”, and they had even deposed me. Nothing of course ever came of it, although the ever-compliant press here gave me headlines about being deposed. (The headlines were much smaller when the Judge eventually ruled that I had acted properly.) However, knowing how their attorneys operate, and some reporters here cooperate with them, I would anticipate some attempt at bad publicity again. I’ll keep you posted…”
Special interest groups like the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP) also sought to accuse Cardinal Dolan of mismanagement or even criminal behavior during his years as Archbishop of Milwaukee. In a statement last year, Cardinal Dolan defended his actions in that city. He said,
“One of the principles that guided me during that time was the need for transparency and openness, which is why I not only welcomed the deposition as a chance to go on-the-record with how we responded to the clergy sexual abuse crisis during my years in Milwaukee, but also encouraged that it be released.”
As for the victims’ group’s allegation that he tried to hide the Milwaukee archdiocese’s money as they planned for bankruptcy, he said,
“While certain groups can be counted upon to take certain statements or events out of context, the documents released show plainly that the bishops have been faithful to the promises made over a decade ago: permanent removal from ministry of any priest who abused a minor; complete cooperation with law enforcement officials; and, strict child-safety requirements.”
The Cardinal’s schedule has been full: On Thursday and Friday, he joined cardinals from around the world to discuss “Marriage and Family.” The installation ceremony for the 19 new cardinals was held on Saturday; and on Sunday, the cardinals joined Pope Francis for Mass in St. Peter’s Basilica.
Cardinal Dolan serves on the Permanent Council for the Synod of Bishops, and so has all-day planning meetings of that Council on Monday and Tuesday of this week. (The Synod of Bishops will convene in Rome in October 2014 and 2015.)
By next weekend, Cardinal Dolan is expected to return home. According to the Archdiocese of New York, there is already publicity about the sexual abuse by priests in St. Louis; so Cardinal Dolan may be addressing the topic further upon his return.