Archbishop Dolan's Abysmal Track Record on Clergy Sex Abuse and Cover up

By Peter Isely
Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests
February 18, 2009 021809_archbishop_dolans_abysmal_track_record_on_clergy_sex_abuse_and_cover_up.htm

-- NB: Dolan "Clergy Abuse Fact Sheet", with links, posted below statement --

Some speculate that Milwaukee archbishop Timothy Dolan may soon be named head of the New York archdiocese. Regardless of whether that happens or not, some believe he'll someday be elevated to a larger archdiocese. Catholics and citizens deserve to know his track record on the most pressing issue the church faces.

Sadly the Vatican has consistently shown that a bishop's mismanagement of clergy sex crimes against children has little or no bearing on career advancement.

When Dolan came to Milwaukee in 2002 from St. Louis he was widely praised as an antidote to Catholicism's penchant for dour and humorless prelates, a wizard of media relations, the embodiment of a new, ascendant and conquering retro-Catholicism.

But like so many other bishops who mismanage the abuse issue but still manage to get promoted, Dolan left St. Louis having failed to properly supervise sex offenders, remove them all from ministry, and fully notify civil authorities.

When Dolan got to Milwaukee, he boldly proclaimed that "it is sledgehammer obvious that things cannot go on with business as usual" in handling clergy sex abuse cases. Yet, for six years it has been pretty much exactly that in Milwaukee, just like in St. Louis.

Dolan did not forward to Wisconsin police direct admissions of guilt from clergy child rapists, even from clergy who were subsequently criminally charged and convicted. He continues to leave known clerical offenders working or presenting themselves as clergy in good standing in the Milwaukee archdiocese, a direct violation of the Dallas Charter. And for six years, secure at their chancery posts are virtually every single member of the senior management who plotted and executed the cover up of child sex abuse under Dolan's disgraced predecessor, Rembert Weakland.

Why, for instance, does Dolan still publically praise without reprimand long term20Milwaukee auxiliary bishop, Richard Sklba? Sklba, according to sworn testimony this June by Weakland, was the chief architect of two decades of cover up for priest pedophiles. Weakland, in fact, called Sklba his "go to guy' on "all abuse cases."

Also, according to Weakland, Dolan has not once talked with him about the 67 known clerical sex offenders in the Milwaukee archdiocese reported to church authorities by at least 480 victims. How can Dolan arrive in New York and claim he has effectively addressed clergy sex crimes in Milwaukee without once asking Weakland about abusive priests? Will Dolan even dare to have such a conversation with Cardinal Eagan for fear of what he might learn?

As Dolan exits, the clergy sex abuse cover up crisis is not behind the Milwaukee church, but looms in front of it. Civil trials against the archdiocese are expected this summer in Milwaukee County for sex abuse fraud.

Victims greeted Dolan when he came to Milwaukee with great hope. He was replacing, after all, a bishop who resigned because he took a half a million dollars in church contributions for a hush money payoff to a seminarian who said he was "date raped" by him. The bar in New York may not be quite as low as it was in Milwaukee, but after years of stagnancy and pastoral malaise under Cardinal Eagan, Dolan is likely to make a very good first impression.

But on matters of child protection Dolan is the Vatican's standard "business as usual" fare.

The vetting of bishops remains, unfortunately, a highly secretive and non-democratic process. How else could Pope Benedict, as we recently learned, spend years in high level negotiations and talks only to end up reinstating a bishop who publically denies the Holocaust?

As the rape of children by so many priests in the United States has conclusively demonstrates -- the number of predators over the past several decades is now within the range of six thousand -- something is wrong with the governing of the church, no matter who the governing bishop happens to be.

Dolan will bring some highly praised qualities to New York: political savvy, fundraising acumen, theological orthodoxy, and populist pastoral skills.

None of these qualities, however, guarantees a bishop will fervently embrace his most basic duty of protecting God's children. For that, something else is needed, something on the order of true spiritual heroism. Maybe this is simply too much to ask of Dolan, or any other American bishop for that matter. But can parents of the New York archdiocese afford not to ask, indeed, demand it of Dolan?

The problem, ultimately, is not any one cardinal or bishop—Dolan or Weakland, Eagan or Sklba, Mahony or Law -- but a system that moves around predator sheltering bishops as freely as it moves around its predators.

SNAP, the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, is the nation's oldest and largest self-help organization of clergy sexual abuse survivors, founded in 1987 with over 8,000 members in 63 chapters (


Peter Isely, SNAP Midwest Director (Milwaukee), 414.429.7259

David Clohessy, SNAP National Director (St. Louis), 314.566.9790

Barbara Dorris, SNAP National Outreach Director, 314.503.0003


Archbishop Timothy Dolan “Clergy Abuse Fact Sheet”

Dolan record as Archbishop of Milwaukee, 2002-2009

Note: There are 67 clergy offenders from the Milwaukee archdiocese substantiated child sex assault reports, including 2 deacons and 20 religious order clergy.

In August of 2002, a bishop for less than a year in St. Louis, Dolan was appointed archbishop of Milwaukee, to replace the disgraced Rembert Weakland. Weakland had just been discovered to have paid a former Marquette University seminarian a half a million dollars in hush money for a sexual abuse allegation that Weakland characterized as a sexual relationship.

While in Milwaukee –

  • Dolan has failed to report direct admissions by clergy sex offenders concerning prosecutable cases of child rape. In February of last year, Sr. Norma Gianni was convicted of child sex assault in Milwaukee County after victims went to police. Yet archdiocesan officials, under the direction of auxiliary Bishop Richard Sklba, had obtained a previous confession [see article].

  • In March, Fr. Bruce McArthur was sentenced for child sex abuse in Juneau County although McArthur had also admitted to the archdiocese that he had assaulted children in several parishes in Milwaukee and a hospital chaplain West Bend [see article].

  • Dolan is leaving priests or clergy in ministry or publically presenting themselves as priests in the Milwaukee archdiocese, in violation of the 2002 U.S. Bishops Charter to Protect Young Children, including Fr. Joseph Mika, who has admitted to child sex assault while a pastor in the Green Bay diocese and is now living with Dolan’s permission in Milwaukee. Victims groups in Milwaukee are claiming there are more such clergy still working under Dolan [see article].

  • Dolan secretly paid off one of Milwaukee’s most notorious priest child molesters, Fr. Franklyn Becker, in exchange for the priest to sign papers to leave the priesthood. Dolan sent a delegate to Becker to then assure him that the archdiocese would not publicize why he had left the priesthood [see article].

  • In a June deposition released in November, former Milwaukee archbishop Rembert Weakland revealed what had long been suspected that Dolan’s number two man, Bishop Richard Sklba was his “go to man” in all sex abuse cases and covering up child sex crimes from authorities and parishioners [see article and the relevant page from the Weakland deposition].

  • Dolan has refused to remove Sklba from his post, saying that he has “complete confidence” in Sklba [see article].

  • Dolan, according to Weakland, has never once talked with him about the scores of abusive priests in the archdiocese nor has Dolan read or viewed Weakland’s deposition admitting to concealing and transferring sex offenders to “every parish” in the Milwaukee archdiocese [see article and the relevant page from the Weakland deposition].

  • In September, Dolan told archdiocesan leaders that due to fraud cases filed against abusive priests and their bishops the archdiocese is going to face a “big financial hit” that is likely, according to archdiocesan officials, to lead to bankruptcy [see article].

  • Dolan has repeatedly lobbied against sexual abuse reforms in Madison, including a bill that would allow childhood victims of sexual abuse by non-blood relatives to bring cases to Wisconsin civil courts [for example, see article].

  • Last year, Dolan permitted a letter to be published in the Catholic newspaper describing clergy child sex abuse victims as “prostitutes” [see memo].

  • Weekly church attendance under Dolan in the Milwaukee archdiocese has dropped every single year and the rate of decrease is increasing at an alarming rate [see press release with links].

Other informative documents from Milwaukee about the clergy abuse crisis and cover up --

Dolan’s record as Auxiliary Bishop of Saint Louis, 2001-2002

Before his appointment to Milwaukee, Dolan was briefly auxiliary bishop of St. Louis, where he was put in charge of the abuse response for the archdiocese by Archbishop Justin Rigali, who was subsequently promoted to cardinal archbishop of Philadelphia.

While in St. Louis --

  • Dolan left at least three priests in ministry who were charged in civil court with child sex assault, including one, Fr. Thomas Graham who was later convicted by a jury [see article].

  • May have failed to supervise Fr. Gary Wolken, a priest sex offender living with Dolan at Our Lady of Sorrows rectory in St. Louis. Wolken was arrested in 2002 for raping and sodomizing a boy from age 7 to 10. Wolken had already been under suspension for child sex abuse [see article].

  • Wrote a letter to the judge at Wolken’s sentencing to keep Wolken from prison, praising Wolken. Wolken was sentenced to 15 years Dolan refuses to release the letter [see article].

  • Besides Wolken, Dolan was also living at Our Lady of Sorrows with another priest sex offender, Fr. Michael Campbell. Campbell was removed from ministry for substantiated abuse reports in 2002. Dolan praised Campbell to parishioners saying he trusts him so much he would go to him for confession [see article].

  • After being suspended in March 2002, Dolan's friend Campbell showed up just weeks later, in April, on the altar of a nearby parish (during Holy Week, no less) to the consternation of many parishioners [see article].

  • Dolan failed to meet with abuse victims or reply to direct abuse reports [see article].

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