Release of Deposition by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee

Today the Archdiocese of Milwaukee released documents related to how they responded to the evil of the sexual abuse of minors by priests.  One of the documents they released was my deposition from this past February that was part of their on-going bankruptcy proceeding.  I thought you might like to see the statement I issued today, as well as read the full deposition.

“I welcome today’s voluntary release of documents by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee that contain information and details related to sexual abuse by clergy, and how the Archdiocese of Milwaukee responded to it.  I am especially grateful that my deposition of February 2013, given as part of the Chapter 11 bankruptcy proceedings, is one of the documents being released.

Responding to victim-survivors, taking action against priest-abusers, and working to implement policies to protect children, were some of the most difficult, challenging, and moving events of the 6 ½ years that I served as Archbishop of Milwaukee.  One of the principles that guided me during that time was the need for transparency and openness, which is why I not only welcomed the deposition as a chance to go on-the-record with how we responded to the clergy sexual abuse crisis during my years in Milwaukee, but also encouraged that it be released.

Unfortunately, we have already seen how the release of these documents will cause some to raise old and discredited attacks – like priest-abusers having been “paid” to apply for laicization, (like it or not, bishops do have a canon law obligation to provide basic support like health care and room and board for their priests until they have finally moved on) or  that establishing a perpetual care fund from money belonging to cemeteries and designated for that purpose – as required by state law and mandated by the archdiocesan finance council – was an attempt to shield it from the bankruptcy proceedings.  While certain groups can be counted-upon to take certain statements or events out of context, the documents released show plainly that the bishops have been faithful to the promises made over a decade ago: permanent removal from ministry of any priest who abused a minor; complete cooperation with law enforcement officials; and, strict child-safety requirements.

The sexual abuse of minors is a crime and it is a sin.  The Church must remain rigorous in our response when an allegation of abuse is received, and ever-vigilant in maintaining our safeguards to do all that we can to see that children are protected.  It is my hope that the release of these documents will also help to show how the Catholic Church in the United States has become a leader in dealing with the society-wide scourge of sexual abuse, and help other groups and organizations who are also seeking combat this evil.”

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6 Responses to “Release of Deposition by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee”

  1. Irene says:

    I think the best way to move forward on the abuse crisis is, among other things, for the bishops to take full ownership of their failure to protect our children. I don’t think its helpful to complain about “old and discredited attacks.”

    Most of us Catholics were and still are beyond shocked that such atrocities took place for decades with the full knowledge of so many of our bishops; leadership needs to take ownership of this great sin and not make excuses or even worse, complain about “certain groups” as if this stuff is unfounded instead of the true horror that it is.

  2. Pat Coyle says:

    Archbishop, regarding the perpetual care fund. I have just been reading your letter to Cardinal Hummes. In requesting the transfer of funds from the Archdiocese you say that “By transferring these assets to the Trust, I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability”. Presumably compensation awarded and arising from a clerical sexual abuse case would constitute ‘a legal claim and liability.’ And perhaps that is what has generated the concern?

  3. Mary Peitler says:

    This really isn’t that difficult. There is either a letter in the documents or not requesting that funds be put into another account to shelter it from lawsuits. Not malarkey, not an attack. Is it a fact or isn’t it? Pretty simple. The people of VOTF are interested in the truth of things, not unsubstantiated blaming of innocent people. Turning this against VOTF
    smacks of pedophile priests and scared bishops turning the charges on their accusers.

  4. Kevin says:

    Could you kindly give us more detail about

    “establishing a perpetual care fund from money belonging to cemeteries and designated for that purpose – as required by state law and mandated by the archdiocesan finance council – was an attempt to shield it from the bankruptcy proceedings. While certain groups can be counted-upon to take certain statements or events out of context…”

    Specifically, what you meant when you said “I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.” on the memo that has now been released. We all need to better understand what that statement means. Doesn’t any legal claim include lawsuits stemming from the clergy sexual abuse scandals? What else could it possibly mean? And could you explain what the archdiocesan finance council is? Do you appoint its members? Are its members appointed by people that you appoint? How do you ensure the council’s independence to make the right financial and legal decisions? And what is the state law you are referring to?

    thanks

  5. laura says:

    I support you, Father! Yes, certain groups will pick apart your words, but hang in there.

  6. David Savidge says:

    Dear Cardinal Dolan:

    I have been an ardent supporter of yours for years now. I live in Boulder, Colorado, where this is sometimes a tough task. What makes it all the harder is when our leaders don’t tell us the truth. This provides unnecessary ammunition to opponents of the Church. I was therefore dismayed to see that after sending that letter asking for approval to divert funds to make them less accessible to claimants in the abuse cases (and any other legal claims) you told us (via the press) that claims that you had diverted funds were “malarky.” What is breaking my heart now is that I have not heard anything from you since the public release of that letter (among others). Please admit what happened and what the clearly states and what you clearly meant (that you were in fact seeking to shield parish/archdiocese funds). Admit that the “malarky” comment was, if not false, then at least incorrect, and ask your flock for forgiveness. If you cannot do these simple though difficult things, then what example are you to us? How can we publicly support you if you don’t tell the truth? You are a prince of the church. Please show your power as our Lord did, through humility and candor. If you of all of our church leaders cannot do this, then perhaps it is true that the greatest obstacle to the faithful in these times is not cynical moral relativism or a culture of death (both so terribly real) but it may very well be the temporal church (as opposed to the mystical body of Christ). In fact, the hiding of funds and equivocation and misleading statements about that conduct place the temporal church ever closer to (if not squarely within) moral relativism and the culture of death by refusing to eradicate all dishonesty, especially relating to abuse.

    Please know that whatever your choice, you always remain in my prayers.

    With Christ’s love and in hope that he will find entry to your heart in these difficult times,

    David Savidge