Dolan and His “Friends”

Here in New York, were stuck with one of the loudest and most political of the Catholic spokesmen, Cardinal Tomothy Dolan. Now a report is out that during Dolan’s time as Archbishop, he payed sexually abusive priests to just go away. According to the Grey Lady:

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.


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.”

I can understand this kind of payout when the problem is just one of discipline. It’s unpleasant, but sometimes it’s better to just get rid of employees who don’t play well with others, and if the wheels need to be greased …

It’s very different when the problem is one that should have been taken to the authorities. Here is looks like Dolan was bribing the abusive priests in order to get them to go away, keep everything under the table and not reflect badly on the church. Once again, it looks like protecting the reputation of the institution took precedence over protecting the victims of abuse.

Now the National Catholic Register is defending Dolan by taking aim at that word “paying”:

Consider this: Suppose you are walking down the street and a homeless person approaches you and asks you for some money. You give him the money. Would that justify a headline saying that you have been paying the homeless?

Or suppose you were with your teenage son or daughter and they asked if they could give some money to the homeless person as an act of kindness and you said Yes. Would that justify a headling saying that you authorized paying the homeless?

Or maybe you send your grandchild $20 for his birthday, because he’s at that age where he’s hard to buy for and what he really wants is money. Have you paid your grandson?

Not all disbursements of money constitute “paying.” Gifts, grants, charitable donations, and other forms of transferring money from one person to another do not automatically count as “paying.”

IOW, just because the the abusive priests are getting money, it doesn’t follow that they’re getting paid to leave.

There may be some justice to the argument. How can you prove the connection between the transfer of money and the agreement to leave without a fuss?

But it’s a very old argument, and it has an unpleasant history. In the American Gilded Age, the heads of the great railroad companies maintained long lists of “friends:” politicians who advanced the interests of the companies.

The railroad men would give money to or arrange lucrative contracts for their “friends” – strictly out of friendship of course. These “friends” would later advance or block a bill in a way that suited the railroad company’s interests – all in the best interest of the country, obviously. Really, there was no connection between the two things. Friends just liked to give gifts to other friends.

It wasn’t plausible then, and it’s not plausible now. Most modern government organizations now recognize that “gifts” between interested individuals amount to payments and have strict policies to report or prevent them.

The Register should perhaps take the obvious lesson from that. For our purposes, a gift given at the incredibly sensitive time of a laicization between involved parties has to be seen as a payment.

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  • trj

    So it seems the NCR’s argument boils down to either “you can’t prove we paid the priests to get rid of them” or “payment is such an unfortunate word, let’s just say we made a charitable donation”.

    Meanwhile they’ve actively covered up the crimes, as per usual. I wonder why Dolan and others who knew about the abuse aren’t charged for their role in the cover-up.

  • Schaden Freud

    You could say that paying the priests to go away was the quickest way to get them away from their victims – that might well be true. But the fact that Dolan didn’t take his evidence/suspicions to the appropriate authorities shows he wasn’t trying to help the victims at all. He was protecting his and the church’s reputations. Looks like a pretty clear case of bribery to me.

    • JohnMWhite

      Agreed. Not to mention that avoiding telling the authorities (and deliberately taking steps to avoid any kind of drawn-out process that might actually uncover more facts and evidence about the alleged abuse) puts other potential victims in danger by not giving anyone any warning that these priests may be predators. Without anyone being aware of their past, they could readily get a job as a gym teacher or scout leader.

      For the NCR to defend this behaviour with a semantic argument is disgusting and typical of their complete callousness towards anybody but their mother church. I don’t even buy the semantics, as unimportant as they are. It is a payment to go away. The timing could not make it more clear, and even the diocese says that’s exactly what it was. NCR’s line of argument is just baffling and demonstrates how desperate they are to find a way to make the church the victim here. It is depressing what the RCC has managed to do to the conscience of so many people.

  • Kodie

    The process, known as “laicization,” is a formal church juridical procedure that requires Vatican approval, and can take far longer if the priest objects.

    Nonsense and more nonsense!

    • UrsaMinor

      Yeah, but that’s what the Vatican peddles, and it makes its own rules.

  • vasaroti

    Did priests who were laicized (SP?) for any other reason also receive “severance pay?” 20K is not that much when you consider having to retrain oneself for an honest job.
    My real concern here is whether the defrockings made it easier or harder for law enforcement to investigate and prosecute these cases. I’d like to hear about this from the detectives involved before I decide if I’m outraged or not. Is there any chance that any of the defrocked priests were not actually molesters? I can well imagine that Dolan might try to eliminate any priest perceived to be gay, regardless of his actual sexual behavior.

  • Yoav

    Considering the kind of people whom the catlick church considered OK to just move around to a new location and a whole new set of potential victims, how bad does a priest have to be for them to decide that this one need to go away?

  • PsiCop

    The idea that it’s somehow “too cumbersome” and “takes too long” to laicize wayward priests, so so hierarchs like Dolan are left with “no choice” but to pay them to leave the prieshood, is absurd on its face. Laicization is a canon law process, and as such, can be changed at any time. If it’s unusably complex, then in fact it ought to have been changed long ago in order to make it useable.

    The truth is that Dolan was not forced, by conditions outside of his control, to pay the priests rather than throw them out on their sorry little behinds. As a Church hierarch, he was partly responsible for those conditions being in place. He could have called for changes to the laicization process to make it possible once again, rather than just paying off the abusive priests.

    Of course, the real question here is not whether or not Dolan should have paid them to leave. Ultimately it’s an internal matter. If the Church wants to saddle itself with an overly complicated and unusable laicization process, that’s a choice it has made for itself. A stupid one, to be sure, but one they’re entitled to make nonetheless. The real question is why Dolan knew enough about the abusers’ wrongdoing to want them out of the priesthood, yet for some reason he didn’t feel compelled to hand them over to local or state authorities.

    The hierarchs … Dolan included … have the moral constitution of the Mafia. It’s reaching the point where we ought no longer talk about “the Roman Catholic Church,” but “La Cosa Nostra” instead.

  • Ken

    Where are the police? Isn’t this obstruction, withholding evidence of rape and accessory to the crime behavior? Enough coddling these cross-dressing hypocrites. Put them in prison where they can get all the sex they want.

    • vasaroti

      Cassocks and other traditional church garments are not cross-dressing, they are styles that were standard male attire before trousers became common.
      Please do not use cross-dressing as a pejorative term, either. Fighting intolerance with more intolerance is a bad idea.

  • Bill

    You give [a homeless person] the money. Would that justify a headline saying that you have been paying the homeless?

    Uh…whether it “justifies a headline” depends on how newsworthy it is, not on what “paying” means.

    “The stupid, it burns!”

    • Noelle

      If the homeless man were molesting the neighborhood children, and instead of calling the police you gave him money to leave the neighborhood, that’d be newsworthy

  • Diablo

    My parents are insanely religious Roman Catholics. My father actually left the seminary when he meet my mother.

    I really I somehow had the power to teleport my father and mother to the Vatican so they could basically scream at the church for their handling of the child sex abuse fiasco. My father, always a religious man, has basically had his entire concept of the world around him shattered. Keep in mind, my old man is in his sixties so he grew up in a Catholic home, went to Catholic schools, and pretty much spent his whole life in service of what is looking more and more like a blatant child sex ring.

    I’m honestly not shocked. Early on I lost my faith and having worked a bit for my family church, I pretty much got exposed to a system of really drunk priests skimming off cash nearly constantly. But for my old man, he still believed in the church. Its painful to watch him try and process this crap when he should be enjoying his retirement. Seriously…fuck the Catholic Church…

  • Robster

    I’d be calling it a “reward”.

  • Hitchslapper

    How tall is Dolan????? I’ve never seen a bigger pile of SHIT! That’s what happens, when you munch at the Pope’s Butt!

  • Mahousniper