Posts Tagged ‘sex abuse’

Release of Deposition by the Archdiocese of Milwaukee

Monday, July 1st, 2013

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.”

Fair Coverage

Monday, February 25th, 2013

My gratitude goes out to Kathryn Jean Lopez at National Review for her piece regarding my time in Milwaukee:

This week, before his departure for Rome for the last day of the pontificate of Pope Benedict XVI and the subsequent conclave, New York’s Timothy Cardinal Dolan spoke under oath about his previous assignment in Milwaukee…

Cardinal Dolan, who began meeting with victims of abuse immediately after his appointment to Milwaukee, doesn’t deserve to be lumped in with anyone who has made excuses for sins and crimes of the past. And yet the narrative this week insinuates that the current president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops is “dogged” by questions about his concern for children, suggesting implication in hundreds of cases, which is simply not so.

You can read more here.

Catholic League Reports on SNAP Deposition

Tuesday, March 20th, 2012

Recently, Catholic League president William A. Donohue, Ph.D. published a report on the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) deposition in Missouri. Here is an excerpt from Donohue’s report:

At the end of 2011, a Missouri judge ordered David Clohessy, the president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP), to be deposed regarding his role in cases of priestly sexual abuse. Clohessy fought the order vigorously, but lost. On January 2, 2012, he was deposed; the deposition was made public only recently [click here]. [NOTE: all pages cited are taken from the deposition.]

Clohessy proved to be uncooperative, refusing to comply with a request for internal documents; he only released a small portion of them. On the stand, he was similarly recalcitrant, refusing to answer many questions. He took refuge in a Missouri law which protects the confidentiality of rape crisis centers. But there are serious reasons to doubt whether SNAP meets the test of a rape crisis center.

Clohessy was asked point blank, “Did you identify yourself as a rape crisis center?” His reply, “I don’t know.” [p. 87.] At another point, he admitted, “I don’t know under the Missouri statutes exactly what constitutes a rape crisis center.” [p. 112.] The lawyers for an accused priest were not impressed. From their questions, and from subsequent statements they’ve made, it is clear that they do not believe that SNAP qualifies as a rape crisis center. They have plenty of reasons for reaching this conclusion.

You can read his whole article and deposition here.

Gratitude to the Catholic League

Thursday, August 11th, 2011

My thanks to Bill Donohue and the Catholic League for the following press release issued last week.

ARCHBISHOP DOLAN LIBELED BY SNAP

August 4, 2011

Catholic League president Bill Donohue comments on the reaction of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) to the news that an elderly New York priest was arrested for a sexual infraction:

A 16-year-old girl started working in a Bronx parish last Saturday and now claims she was inappropriately touched by an 87-year-old priest. She returned to work on Monday, where she now says she was touched the wrong way again. Then she voluntarily decided to go back to work on Tuesday, where she now claims she was wrongly touched for the third time. On Wednesday, the cops show up, with TV cameras rolling, and handcuff the elderly priest—who has never had a single allegation made against him in over 60 years as a priest—treating him as if he were Jack the Ripper.

If this isn’t surreal enough, consider that the phony victims’ group, SNAP, is accusing New York Archbishop Timothy Dolan of covering up the alleged misconduct, even though Dolan knew nothing about it. Moreover, when Dolan learned of the arrest, he immediately informed the cleric that he cannot function as a priest and must leave the parish until the matter is settled. So to accuse the New York Archbishop of a cover-up is obscene.

SNAP also says that Archbishop Dolan was guilty of “acting secretively” in a previous case involving Msgr. Wallace Harris. This is libelous: Dolan was the Archbishop of Milwaukee when Harris was suspended. When Cardinal Edward Egan, Dolan’s predecessor, learned of the alleged misconduct by Harris—which supposedly happened 30 years earlier—he notified the D.A.’s office.

According to SNAP’s press release today, these cases also show the Church’s tolerance of pedophilia. But neither of the two cases involved pedophilia: in both instances, the alleged victims were teenagers. The name of the game is to paint priests as child abusers, which is a bold-face lie. It’s time the media turned its cameras on the liars at SNAP.

Response from David Quinn

Friday, July 29th, 2011

Taoiseach Enda Kenny recently released a statement to the Dail regarding the Vatican’s 1997 letter to the Irish bishops on sex abuse. David Quinn, a columnist for the Irish Independent, responded to Taoiseach Kenny’s statement and other attacks on the Vatican.

Here is an excerpt from Quinn’s column:

In the sort of language normally associated with a Richard Dawkins or Ian Paisley, he accused the Vatican of “dysfunction, disconnection, elitism . . . narcissism” and effectively of not caring about the “rape and torture of children”.

Among other things, Kenny’s speechwriters included a wildly out-of-context quote from the then Cardinal Ratzinger. There is a difference between necessary and valid criticism of the church on the one hand, and unrestrained church-bashing on the other.

In a similar vein, Kenny added his voice last week to those who believe the breaking of the seal of confession should be required by law.

Kenny is obviously no anti-Catholic, but he needs to realise that, historically, only the most anti-Catholic societies have ever done such a thing.

You can read the whole column here.

Statement on John Jay Study

Wednesday, May 18th, 2011

Today, John Jay College of Criminal Justice released the results of a study on clergy sex abuse. You can view the report presented to the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops here.

Here is the statement that I released to the press today.

FOR IMMEDIATE RELEASE: May 18, 2011

Today’s release of The Causes and Context of Sexual Abuse of Minors by Catholic Priests in the United States, 1950-2010, a report conducted by the John Jay College of Criminal Justice, adds valuable insight and understanding to how and why the crime and sin of sexual abuse occurred in the Catholic Church.

Keep in mind that the study released today is a report to the bishops of the United States, not from them.  The sexual abuse of minors is a tragedy that affects every family, religion, school, organization, institution, and profession in our society.  The Catholic Church in the United States has been noted as the first group anywhere to contract a professional agency – in this case, the John Jay College here in New York City – to examine the “causes and contexts” of this scourge.

I start with this fact because some of the early reaction has already – no surprise here – criticized the bishops for the conclusions of the study!  Once again, they are not our conclusions at all, but those of an acclaimed academic institution specializing in this sensitive area.

The information provided in the Causes and Context study closely mirrors our own experience here in the Archdiocese of New York.  The report makes clear that the vast majority of sexual abuse occurred during the 1960’s through 1980’s, even as it examines the various conditions that led to this abuse.  It also concludes that the incidence of sexual abuse of minors has declined sharply in the Catholic Church since 1985.  The reports of abuse that the Victims Assistance Coordinators for the Archdiocese receive today are almost exclusively from decades ago.  This does not minimize the damage done to the victims of abuse, as I once again offer an apology to anyone who may have been harmed by a priest or any other person acting in the name of the Church, however long ago.

The study also points out that there was no single cause that led to the sexual abuse crisis.  Neither celibacy, as some have suggested, nor homosexuality, as others have claimed, have been found to be a reason why a person would engage in sexual abuse of a minor. Instead, the Causes and Context report indicates that various vulnerabilities in an individual priest, in combination with situational stresses and opportunities, raise the risk that a priest might abuse.

Here in the Archdiocese, as elsewhere in the Church, many steps have been taken to combat this evil. As the study points out, providing safe environments for our young people is perhaps the most important way to prevent sexual abuse. In the Archdiocese, 74,000 adults have undergone safe environment training, and 82,000 have had background checks, with 170,000 children trained each year.  In addition, our seminary formation program provides rigorous screening, and more intensive and comprehensive human and emotional development, which better prepares our future priests to live out their commitment to serving God and His Church.  Codes of Conduct, both for clergy and for laity, have been established to clarify what is and is not appropriate behavior for those who work with or are associated with minors.

When an allegation of abuse is made, our policy and procedures are well-established, widely published, and effective.  First and foremost, we continue to encourage anyone who has an allegation of abuse against a cleric, an employee, or volunteer of the Archdiocese to report it immediately and directly to the appropriate civil authorities.  If the Archdiocese of New York has reason to believe that an act of abuse of a minor has occurred, it immediately contacts the appropriate civil authorities, cooperating with the district attorneys and other civil authority in their investigations of suspected cases of abuse.

Our Independent Lay Board, comprised of judges, lawyers, psychiatrists, social workers, parents, teachers, and those experienced in working with sex abuse victims, reviews these allegations after the civil process has completed.  Using all the information that the Archdiocese has been able to gather, they determine if an act of abuse occurred, and advise the Archbishop of New York if the priest can be returned to ministry.  Should a cleric be found to have committed even a single act of sexual abuse of a minor, he will never be permitted to serve in ministry again.

Earlier this week, the Holy See released a circular letter to bishops’ conferences around the world, urging them to develop polices for dealing with sexual abuse within their own countries.  The letter outlines such steps as listening to and caring for the victims of abuse, creating safe environment for minors, proper formation of priests, cooperating with civil authorities, and taking proper care of priests who have been accused of abuse.  It is my hope that the experience of the Church in the United States, as illustrated in this study, might help serve as a model, not only for the Church in other countries, but for all of society which is still learning how to deal with the awful problem of abuse.

small image of PDF Icon Click here to read the press release in Spanish.

An Airport Encounter

Friday, March 18th, 2011

It was only the third time it had happened to me in my nearly thirty-five happy years as a priest, all three times over the last nine-and-a-half years.

Other priests tell me it has happened to them a lot more.

Three is enough.  Each time has left me so shaken I was near nausea.

It happened last Friday . . .

I had just arrived at the Denver Airport, there to speak at their popular annual “Living Our Catholic Faith” conference.

As I was waiting with the others for the electronic train to take me to the terminal, a man, maybe in his mid-forties, waiting as well, came closer to me.

“Are you a Catholic priest?” he kindly asked.

“Sure am.  Nice to meet you,” says I, as I offered my hand.

He ignored it.  “I was raised a Catholic,” he replied, almost always a hint of a cut to come, but I was not prepared for the razor sharpness of the stiletto, as he went on, “and now, as a father of two boys, I can’t look at you or any other priest without thinking of a sexual abuser.”

What to respond?  Yell at him?  Cuss him out?  Apologize?  Deck him?  Express understanding?  I must admit all such reactions came to mind as I staggered with shame and anger from the damage of the wound he had inflicted with those stinging words.

“Well,” I recovered enough to remark, “I’m sure sorry you feel that way.  But, let me ask you, do you automatically presume a sexual abuser when you see a Rabbi or Protestant minister?”

“Not at all,” he came back through gritted teeth as we both boarded the train.

“How about when you see a coach, or a boy scout leader, or a foster parent, or a counsellor, or physician?”  I continued.

“Of course not!” he came back.  “What’s all that got to do with it?”

“A lot,” I stayed with him, “because each of those professions have as high a percentage of sexual abuse, if not even higher, than that of priests.”

“Well, that may be,” he retorted.  “But the Church is the only group that knew it was going on, did nothing about it, and kept transferring the perverts around.”

“You obviously never heard the stats on public school teachers,” I observed.  “In my home town of New York City alone, experts say the rate of sexual abuse among public school teachers is ten times higher than that of priests, and these abusers just get transferred around.”  (Had I known at that time the news in in last Sunday’s New York Times about the high rate of abuse of the most helpless in state supervised homes, with reported abusers simply transferred to another home, I would have mentioned that, too.)

To that he said nothing, so I went in for a further charge.

“Pardon me for being so blunt, but you sure were with me, so, let me ask:  when you look at yourself in a mirror, do you see a sex abuser?”

Now he was as taken aback as I had been two-minutes before.  “What the hell are you talking about?”

“Sadly,” I answered, “studies tell us that most children sexually abused are victims of their own fathers or other family members.”

Enough of the debate, I concluded, as I saw him dazed.  So I tried to calm it down.

“So, I tell you what:  when I look at you, I won’t see a sex abuser, and I would appreciate the same consideration from you.”

The train had arrived at baggage claim, and we both exited together.

“Well then, why do we only hear this garbage about you priests,” he inquired, as he got a bit more pensive.

“We priests wonder the same thing.  I’ve got a few reasons if you’re interested.”

He nodded his head as we slowly walked to the carousel.

“For one,” I continued, “we priests deserve the more intense scrutiny, because people trust us more as we dare claim to represent God, so, when on of us do it – even if only a tiny minority of us ever have — it is more disgusting.”

“Two, I’m afraid there are many out there who have no love for the Church, and are itching to ruin us.  This is the issue they love to endlessly scourge us with.”

“And, three, I hate to say it,” as I wrapped it up, “there’s a lot of money to be made in suing the Catholic Church, while it’s hardly worth suing any of the other groups I mentioned before.”

We both by then had our luggage, and headed for the door.  He then put his hand out, the hand he had not extended five minutes earlier when I had put mine out to him.  We shook.

“Thanks.  Glad I met you.”

He halted a minute.  “You know, I think of the great priests I knew when I was a kid.  And now, because I work in IT at Regis University, I know some devoted Jesuits.  Shouldn’t judge all you guys because of the horrible sins of a few.”

“Thanks!,” I smiled.

I guess things were patched-up, because, as he walked away, he added, “At least I owe you a joke:  What happens when you can’t pay your exorcist?”

“Got me,” I answered.

“You get ‘re-possessed’!”

We both laughed and separated.

Notwithstanding the happy ending, I was still trembling . . . and almost felt like I needed an exorcism to expel my shattered soul, as I had to confront again the horror this whole mess has been to victims and their families, our Catholic people like the man I had just met . . . and to us priests.

Milwaukee Update

Friday, March 11th, 2011

Just to give you a head’s up…

Over the upcoming weeks, you might hear frequent accusations about my seven years as Archbishop of Milwaukee by tort attorney Jeffrey Anderson, who is representing claimants in the current bankruptcy proceedings in that wonderful archdiocese.

Those who are familiar with Anderson’s usual tactics tell me we can figure to hear repeated charges about my “irresponsibility.”  It seems he believes that it helps his case if my name is muddied, no matter how unjustly.

You may have already seen two of his preposterous charges have already made headlines here and in Milwaukee.

One claims I “hid” $130 million of archdiocesan assets.  As I commented when I heard of this incredible slur, I did no such thing.  Yes, I returned – at the insistence of our auditors and lay finance council — $70 million of parish savings (not archdiocesan money) back to the people to whom it belonged.  And, yes, I made sure the $60 million of “perpetual care funds” for our Catholic cemeteries was, as demanded by state law, secure.

Two, he finds fault with me for asking the Vatican to laicize an abusive priest.  Seems I acted “too slowly” – even though the priest had already been removed from ministry long before, and was not allowed to act as a priest – and that I was only worried about “scandal” – even though the perpetrator’s victims had told me they were, in fact, “scandalized” that the priest had not been laicized.  He includes the now-obligatory punch to the then Cardinal Joseph Ratzinger, even though the future pope “defrocked” the abuser at my request.  Can’t win!

Keep in mind that some of those now lined-up against the Archdiocese of Milwaukee have stated in the past that they would “sue the s—“ out of the archdiocese, and would not stop until an “out of business” sign was posted in front of every parish, school, and church charitable center.

Given such motives, don’t be surprised by further frequent attacks on me.  Although, sadly, some media here and in Milwaukee seem to give these groundless attacks immediate publicity, I do not intend to spend a lot of time responding to them.

I’d be happy to provide the truth to the respected bankruptcy judge, if so asked.

Sorry to bother you with all of this, but I want to keep you posted.

Thanks.  A blessed Lent!

Groundless Gossip

Monday, February 14th, 2011

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.

To Whom Shall We Go?

Thursday, September 2nd, 2010

Here’s an article I thought worth sharing from Greg Erlendson at Our Sunday Visitor.

A brief excerpt:

“Being the butt of Jay Leno jokes is not persecution of a noble sort, but it is a barometer of social disdain, and the Church has become fixed in the popular mind as an organization that has actively cultivated a climate of sexual abuse. This slur easily merges with the vestigial anti-Catholicism of American society…

The result is that the scandals have marginalized the one institution that can raise a voice against a variety of social wrongs, including the broader epidemic of child abuse and child pornography, as well as treatment of the poor and most vulnerable. Its credibility has been weakened. Even worse, its credibility among its own people has been weakened.

This is where we must step up. And this is why it is important to get this story out, as unpleasant as it is, and as weary of it as we are.”

You can catch up with the rest here.