Documents released yesterday show that Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York authorized payments, some as much as $20,000, to priests who sexually abused children as a means of encouraging them to leave the ministry. The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) announced the findings after discovering them in the minutes of a Milwaukee archdiocese finance council meeting held in March 2003. The archdiocese called the payments “signing bonuses.”

In a press release, SNAP wrote “We know, incontrovertibly, that while Dolan was claiming to heal the Milwaukee Church of the sexual abuse scandal he was instead running a shadow operation to pay off priests who had raped, sexually assaulted or abused children so that they could quietly take this money and disappear into the community unprosecuted, undetected, and unrepentant.”

According to the meeting minutes, priests were offered the payouts if they agreed to undergo laicization, “the process of turning an ordained priest into a lay person.” Priests were offered $10,000 at the start of the process and another $10,000 at the end. They were also given $1,250 in monthly pension benefits and health insurance until they found new jobs.

Reuters 5/31/12; NPR 5/31/12; SNAP Press Release 5/31/12; New York Times 5/30/12

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