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.