Just when you thought the Catholic Church couldn't look any worse in the clergy abuse scandal, Monday's release of thousands of internal documents pertaining to the Milwaukee Archdiocese just made things uglier. It's hard to decide which is worse, the payments made to "problem priests" to retire or just go away? Proof that the attempts to cover up accusations continued into the 2000's? Or the blatant attempt by then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan to salt away cash before courts could order damages to victims?
First, the payments to priests who just couldn't stop molesting boys. When the church could no longer find new parishes to send these monsters, they gave them $10,000 "bonuses" to find another line of work. Ostensibly, this action was taken to limit further claims--sort of like saying "Well, he doesn't work for us anymore, so it's not our fault he did what he did." Doesn't it strike you as odd that the church was more than willing to give money to those who committed crimes--but has fought tooth and nail to avoid giving anything to those who were the victims?
Second, you have continued attempts to cover up accusations all the way into the new Millenium. One priest in Fond du Lac was accused of molesting boys up until 2002--but nothing was ever passed along to police. This was also after numerous reports had surfaced about the Church's systematic attempts to cover up allegations dating back to the 1950's--and it was after all allegations were to be reported to the Vatican (where former Pope Benedict oversaw their "investigation").
Third, you have the establishment of the "Cemetery Trust Fund". As Archbishop Dolan saw the writing on the wall--that the Church was going to owe a lot of people a lot of money--he sought ways to save all that he could. So he asked the Vatican to transfer assets to a trust fund--which victims would not be able to touch. And what is a better "shelter" for you cash? Cemeteries, of course--because they are going to be around forever--and will outlast anyone hoping to get their hands on that money.
Actually, the thing that offended me the most yesterday wasn't anything that was included in the personnel files. It was the the statement from Archbiship Dolan--who claimed that "the Church was not equipped to handle the accusations, the victims or the offenders." Really? The Archdiocese offices didn't have telephones to call police? Imagine if the Church had called the cops when the first victims came to them in the 1950's and 1960's? What message would have been sent to the other molesters that worked their way into the priesthood in the subsequent decades if those first offenders had been sentenced to decades behind bars--and the Church became ultra-vigilant in keeping such people out of the priesthood? I'm guessing it would have been a lot less embarrassing--and less expensive--that what the Church is facing now.
But no, they chose to keep up the facade of "decency" and "infallbility"--all the while sowing the seeds of this scandal. And if it wasn't for the bravery of the victims finally going public with their embarrassing secrets, the Church would be more than happy to keep up that sham.