Dolan's correspondence with Vatican officials and priests accused of sexual abuse was included in about 6,000 pages of documents the Archdiocese of Milwaukee released Monday as part of a deal reached in federal bankruptcy court with clergy sex abuse victims suing it for fraud. Victims say the archdiocese transferred problem priests to new churches without warning parishioners and covered up priests' crimes for decades.
The documents have drawn attention in part because of the involvement of Dolan, who is now a cardinal and New York archbishop and the nation's most prominent Roman Catholic official by virtue of his position as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops. The records provide new details on payments made to some abusers to leave the priesthood and the transfer of nearly $57 million for cemetery care into a trust as the archdiocese prepared to file for bankruptcy.
Victims and their attorneys accused Dolan of bankruptcy fraud, pointing to a June 2007 letter in which he told a Vatican office that moving the money into a trust would provide "an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability."
Church law requires bishops to seek Vatican approval for any property sale or asset transfer in the millions of dollars. Dolan wrote in the letter that the transfer had been approved by archdiocese's Financial Council and College of Consultors.
A Vatican office approved the transfer within a month. Jeff Anderson, an attorney for many victims, compared that to the long lag in responses to defrock abusive priests.