The much-anticipated release of documents related to sex abuse has revealed–exactly what we have come to expect from the this whole sorry affair. The most sensational news will surely be that current New York Archbishop and Cardinal Timothy Dolan moved some $57 million from diocesan accounts to cemetary trust funds to protect them from lawsuits. (Dolan has disputed the purpose of the transfer, but his request to the Vatican to transfer the funds stated that the purpose of the transfer was to protect them from legal liability.) Coverage also notes $20,000 payments to priests who were convinced to resign their orders voluntarily.
An NCR story quotes former Milwaukee Archbishop Rembert Weakland describing his dilemma regarding whether or when to make public allegations against priests: "There are a lot of things that when you make an assignment you don't disclose," he said, noting other problems such as alcohol abuse and financial troubles as other problems for some priests. Weakland also admitted treating priests accused of abuse differently from, say, a teacher: "There was a certain obligation that I had toward the priests that went beyond what I might have toward anyone else."
Milwaukee is merely another, repetitive chapter in this sorry, sordid tale of nondisclosure, clerical privilege, and insensitivity to victims that has characterized bishops' responses to instances of child sexual abuse. I remain convinced that part of their inclination to favor priest perpetrators is their relative lack of contact with families and children, exacerbated by seminary formation that does not include families and institutionalized by clerical celibacy. Both deserve review as part of continuing efforts to reduce instances of clerical sexual abuse and respond appropriately when an accusation arises.