Groundless Gossip

I owe it to all of you — both the Catholic and wider community — to be very clear about the ridiculous and groundless gossip spread about me by a tort lawyer named Jeff Anderson.

You may have heard this man claim that, when I was Archbishop of Milwaukee, I “hid’ $130 million of archdiocesan funds so victims of clergy sexual abuse could not sue for it.

Malarkey! The Archdiocese of Milwaukee has an excellent record of fiscal integrity and transparency.  I worked hard at that, and my successor, Archbishop Listecki, continues to do so.  (By the way, you might also be interested to know that during my years as Archbishop of Milwaukee, and with the generous service of many dedicated people, we established a mediation process that reached settlements with almost 200 victim survivors; that mediation process has been praised by the victim survivors who have participated in the process.)

In my seven years there, the meager resources of the archdiocese were under the vigilance of a sound and respected finance council, composed of prominent and respected business leaders from the financial community; annually we were audited; and each year there was complete, published financial disclosure.  You can find the audited financial statements here.  To claim that, given this rigorous supervision, an archbishop could have “hidden” $130 million, is beyond ridiculous.

I do want you to know that, when I arrived as archbishop, the financials showed that parishes had $70 million of their peoples’ money on deposit with the archdiocese.  This was not archdiocesan money at all, but belonged to parishes.  That’s why the finance council, and our outside professional auditors, advised me that it was inappropriate for the archdiocese to hold money for parishes, and that it should be returned to the parishes to which it belonged anyway.  This was done, and publicly reported in the annual audit.

So much for “hidden funds.”  Far from inappropriate, this decision was virtuous, open, and in accord with the clear directives of the professionals on our finance council and outside auditors.

The archdiocese of Milwaukee has issued an enlightening statement speculating that this lawyer’s reckless charges also included “hiding” the “cemetery fund,” which, of course, by state law, is scrupulously protected, and cannot be touched or transferred by anybody.

So, these silly charges are baloney.  Unfortunately, this man got the attention he wanted and has come to expect from the news, tarnishing the good name of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and of me.  Some of our priests reported that people at Sunday Mass asked them “Why did Archbishop Dolan hide those funds?”

Lord knows I’ve made mistakes, but “hiding” $130 million is hardly one of them!

P.S. The Catholic League issued a statement on this matter today.  You can read it here.

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15 Responses to “Groundless Gossip”

  1. Mary says:

    Archbishop Dolan,

    Good for you for redressing these false charges quickly, briefly and clearly.

    These kinds of accusations can take on a life of their own even when they are immediately answered. Holy Father Benedict warned of the wolves. I love your choice of words: malarkey and baloney. Bullspit is a favorite of mine.

    God love you and keep you in His protection.

  2. Rick says:

    You are in my prayers.

  3. Tyler Graham says:

    Dear Archbishop Dolan,

    I remember fondly living in the archdiocese of Milwaukee during your tenure, and I saw only good things happen while you were there.

    I will hold your final prayer of the Stations of the Cross at Holy Hill as one of my most cherished experiences as a layman workin’ out my salvation with fear and trembling.

    Please pray for me, as I will for you.

    Peace!

  4. Maria says:

    “A faithful priest is God’s greatest consolation”.
    St. Teresa of Jesus

    Padre: You are a faitful priest whom the Lord loves. Not for a second did I believe you to be guilty of anything! We are with you !

  5. Anne Rodrigues says:

    Archbishop Timothy Dolan
    Archdiocese of NY

    Your Grace,
    I believe that because of your increased responsibility within the Catholic Church (I often read US catholic websites and have read of you more than once) you, along with all those who work to increase the Kingdom of God must be prime targets for the ‘enemy’ who will use any number of Jeff Anderson’s to put a spoke in the wheel. However, prayer is a mighty weapon and I have prayed to Holy Michael Archangel for you and to the Divine Mercy for Jeff Anderson.
    May God grant us His Peace and may His Kingdom increase.
    Anne Rodrigues

  6. Thanks for the clarification and honesty. I hadn’t heard about this until now. I met you once when you were Rector of the North American College in 2001 on a trip there with a priest friend from Connecticut. I find your writings and style refreshing and believe you to be a man, a Priest and a Bishop of great integrity.

    Thank you for this short article!

  7. MKE says:

    I rarely agree with Bill Donahue and the Catholic League but on this issue, he is correct. SNAP’s financials are available at http://www.guidestar.org under Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests. They are incorporated as a 501(c)(3) charity and have collected MILLIONS of dollars in the past 10 years. Their leaders handsomely pay themselves. On their website, they list their donors, most of whom are “anonymous.” As someone who has worked with clergy abuse victims in the past, I can assure you that the overwhelming majority of them do not have this kind of money to contribute and furthermore, are really interested in genuine healing. SNAP engages in lobbying, has inserted itself into a political campaign in Wisconsin, and spins, distorts, and defames anyone at will with outrageous assertions. It isn’t Archbishop Dolan who should be investigated… the IRS should investigate and follow the money to this organization. It is a front for Jeffrey Anderson and the other trial attorneys who rely on them to keep the issue screaming.

  8. Billy Atwell says:

    You’re a good man, Archbishop. Catholics who know anything of your reputation know you are honest and clear. The great mission of the Archdiocese is too important to be distracted by lawyers desperate for attention.

    God Bless you.

  9. I also appreciate the archbishop’s quick and clear explanation. What happened with $130M makes sense. The accusation seems silly in light of that, but let’s not mis-aim ourselves by targeting Mr Anderson.

    It is unseemly for us to taint our defense, no matter how outraged we might feel, by making personal criticisms of adversaries. Let’s keep in mind that Mr Anderson is a legal adversary, not a moral or demonic one. Raising the hint that the man is immoral or devilish (even if he is) puts the Church in the mud with the other slingers. We don’t need that.

    Most sexual abuse victims would have been satisfied with a personal and sincere apology from a prelate who inherited an abuse and cover-up scandal. I can testify that as an adult, I’ve had to swallow pride and offer apologies for things my fault and occasionally things not–even on behalf of a pastor, or the Church. One gets used to it, and one can even find it an opportunity for authentic reconciliation. That reconciliation, by the way, is the Church’s major aim in dealing with the fallout of abuse cover-up, not minimalism–paying the least amount of money possible to get us out of legal trouble.

  10. Liz F says:

    We pray for you daily as well. I am glad you are standing up against malicious gossip. I will say a few little prayers for this Jeff Anderson too. That’s just sad.

  11. Janet S says:

    Archbishop Dolan,

    God Bless has blessed those you lead in your role as Archbishop, both in Milwaukee and NY.
    I admire your ability to react calmly and provide a simple clarification of the accusations of the attorney in question. Your gentle yet firm words of correction are yet another example of some the traits that make you such an amazing leader in our church.

    I grew up in Milwaukee, down the street from the school where an offender worked. The church and its faithful continue to pay for the sins of that individual. However, I know of a different story surrounding that school. My parents and the local K of C raised funds for the school. They supported it and it’s students, year in and year out. There are many many untold and unheard tales of love and support that occurred in Milwaukee that I was privileged to be witness to.

    It is sad that our media continues to give voice to those who wish to discredit the church in Milwaukee and anyone associated with it. Having lived in that diocese and knowing many many hard working people who still faithfully serve there, I have seen the hand of God present there. I would love to see some coverage of that.

    God Bless you in all you do!

  12. Hugh McLoughlin says:

    Dear Archbishop

    My understanding, and since I am a contributor to The Scottish Catholic Observer I am writing from a long way away and may be wrong, is that Attorney Jeff Anderson of St. Paul, Minnesota, claims to have “won” in excess of $60 million in settlements from the Catholic Church in the U.S. and is so buoyed up by this excess success that he is now opening an office in London to extend his efforts to this side of the Pond; but not just in Great Britain.

    I am not lawyer, and have never been accused of being one, but might I make a suggestion? Since this gentleman has called the integrity of both you yourself personally and the Catholic Church institutionally into question, why don’t you give him a bit back?

    He wants to see into the financial books of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee? Fine.
    On there behalf, ask to see into the financial books of his law firm.

    To be precise, you should wish to determine how much of this $60 plus was in fact disbursed to clients, with a detailed breakdown, and how much was retained for the benefit (in Scots Law they would say “the alimentary behoof”) of the law firm’s principal, namely one Jeff Anderson.

    I am no expert in law, and all the lawyers I know, and there are many, are entirely honourable people, but I guarantee you that Attorney Anderson will go to great lengths to prevent that information ever accurately entering into the public domain.

    Should you take my advice, please let me know how you get on!

    Orrabestorratime

    Hughie

  13. Andrew Piacente says:

    Most of the media is at war with the Church. Thank God for Archbishop Dolan and his honesty and quick wit.

    Thank God for Catholic League for Religious and Civil Rights too. They are seemingly the only group that is in the forefront for the defence of our beloved Church. Every Catholic, EVERY Catholic should be a member.

  14. Claire Smith says:

    I never believed the gossip that Jeff Anderson spread. I knew that couldn’t be true. But it good you decided to write this post and let everyone know what happened exactly.

  15. Joseph Reciniello says:

    Archbishop Dolan,

    I would like to ask a question regarding your recent comments about Governor Andrew Cuomo receiving communion on March 8, 2011:

    “When asked to describe the meeting he had with Gov. Cuomo on Tuesday and if the issue of denying Cuomo communion because he lives with his girlfriend came up, the Archbishop said it had not.

    “We didn’t touch that delicate issue. There is a time and a place for everything. We spoke about education, health care… I don’t want to make a public spectacle of this. I’ve told the Governor that first and foremost I am a pastor. I don’t want to embarrass you and you don’t want to embarrass me,” answered Dolan.”

    I would think that speaking to the governor directly, who is living in a state of mortal sin and is receiving Our Lord would be the “Pastoral” thing to do – don’t you?

    I am not going to get into theology with you surrounding the worthy reception of Holy Communion by the faithful. The Governor of the State of New York should not be receiving Communion, you know that as well as everyone else.

    Please address the issue properly (with love but directly).

    I cite as an example Rhode Island Bishop Thomas Tobin’s Response to Rep. Patrick Kennedy in November 2009.

    I’m going to be very honest with you, I’m sick and tired of having to defend the clergy. I am not interested in having a politician for a Bishop (soon to be Cardinal). Speak the truth, speak it with love, but speak it always and speak it clearly. Up to this point I was very impressed with you, but once again, I will be honest – You have disappointed me greatly.

    Please pray about what I said.