Looking Past Cardinal Dolan’s Hearty Smile

Huffington Post

Michael D’Antonio
Author, Mortal Sin — Sex, Crime, and the Era of Catholic Scandal

In Rome, Vatican watchers like to say that the institutional Catholic Church measures time not with a clock, but with a calendar, and that its memory is as durable as the records in its archives, where Galileo’s signature, preserved in the documents from his famous trial, looks like it was penned yesterday. In America the one institution that might match the Vatican when it comes to memory and deliberative care is our system of justice where, according to the reliable cliché, the wheels grind slowly. But grind they do and they are gradually revealing the character behind the façade of New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan’s hearty smile and twinkling eyes.

In the most recent turn in the struggle for justice by victims of clergy sexual abuse, a federal judge found that the Archdiocese of Milwaukee cannot stash $55 million in a trust devoted to cemeteries and deny litigants access to the money as they sue for compensation. Victims of predator priests have used the courts to seek both the documented truth and financial compensation for more than a decade.

The architect of the trust fund idea was then Archbishop of Milwaukee Dolan, who was subsequently made cardinal of New York by Pope Benedict XVI.

Before he shocked the Church by resigning, Benedict stood as the symbol of the Vatican’s immoral and schizophrenic response to abuse as he spoke empathetically but acted to shield both clergy and the Catholic treasury. Dolan practiced the same duality, posing as a Christ-like figure of compassion in meetings with victims but acting as if he never heard the admonition to the greedy contained in the gospel of Luke. Indeed, after establishing the trust he then sought the protection of the bankruptcy court for the rest of the assets of the archdiocese. This strategy was replicated elsewhere in the country as bishops, who understood that victims had won billions of dollars in compensation, recognized in Dolan’s example a way to evade claims.

Created just as the state of Wisconsin was moving to permit victim lawsuits against the official church, Dolan’s enormous trust fund was described by the archdiocese as a vehicle for the care of eight burying grounds. For the care of clergy victims Milwaukee church officials proposed $4 million, less than 10 percent of the sum earmarked for the dead, to be split by 128 claimants. An additional 450 people who came forward to accuse priests of sexual abuse would have been given nothing because they failed to meet certain legal, not moral, criteria.

Note: This is an Abuse Tracker excerpt. Click the title to view the full text of the original article. If the original article is no longer available, see our News Archive.