Archbishop Dolan's Legacy

By Randy Ellison
Boys Don't Tell
June 6, 2012

The Catholics are in the news again about their handling of child sex abuse, via the actions of Archbishop Dolan. Evidently when he was Bishop of the Milwaukee Archdiocese in 2003 he was a key player when a decision was made to pay sexually abusive priests $20,000 to leave the priesthood. Yet at the time when the Bishop was asked if they were paying priests off, he responded by saying that was "false, preposterous and unjust."

Now that the minutes of that meeting have become public in the bankruptcy of the Milwaukee Diocese, we are being told that the church did this to "help these former priests transition to lay life without completely losing access to things like health care." (Nobody seemed to care what all the victims had lost access to, like trust, faith, self-respect, and their soul among other things.) The church also admits the payments were intended to move "unassignable priests" out of the priesthood more quickly than going through due process. Some say this was a bonus to child molesters. I don't see it that way. It was a payoff, and they obviously recognized there was a serious problem.

Here in Oregon, it came out a couple of years ago that the Portland Public Schools were doing the same thing with teachers that had complaints of sexual abuse against them. The district paid their insurance for a year and gave them letters of recommendation and in some cases monetary awards as long as they agreed to leave the area. I'm sure these administrators were saying the same thing the church was; leave my employ so that you are no longer a potential liability to me.

I want to comment on two serious problems I see with this action. First and foremost, "Where does this solution leave the VICTIM?" The victim is completely left out of the equation. In theory by asking a perpetrator to leave the area they have stopped the abuse. But in handling it this way, they are shortcutting any potential of justice for the victim. Doesn't the victim of child sexual abuse by a person in a position of trust deserve to be able to confront their accuser as part of their healing process? Shouldn't we as a civilized society confront abusers? AND "Where is the accountability piece." Isn't that what we try to teach are children, that they must be accountable for their actions?

This so called "solution" to the problem is so totally disrespectful to the victims. It gets the perpetrators off the "books" of the church or school district, but it also leaves them free to repeat (which most do) their predatory behaviors on other vulnerable children in other unsuspecting communities.

The message is clear. You will be held accountable if you use drugs, or steal, or stab someone, but if you sexually molest a child we will just ask you to "do your business" somewhere else. Which brings me to my next point; we live in a Culture of Abuse. The fact that it is so difficult to confront an abuser, that our institutions would rather "pay them off," than bring charges shows that we would rather avoid the issue entirely, and in doing so we dismiss the victim as well as the perpetrator.

It is time to change our values and our institutional systems to bring the victim and justice into focus. We need policies that make it clear if you are accused of child molestation, you will be removed from access to children and you will be held accountable. We will prosecute you to the full extent of the law in a timely and swift manner. NO EXCEPTIONS.

So now a final note to Archbishop Dolan: Your legacy could have been that of a kindly compassionate representative of Christ on Earth who reached out to help child victims whose way to Divine Truth and Grace was blocked by wolves in frocks. Instead you will be remembered for fighting against bringing child rapists to justice and working effortlessly to keep victims silent.


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