The Watcher Cat

The Watcher Cat

Monday, July 1, 2013

The Man Behind the Curtain

Today's Times has a story that looks into the Archdiocese of Milwaukee during the tenure of now-Cardinal Timothy Dolan:
Files released by the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Milwaukee on Monday reveal that in 2007, Cardinal Timothy F. Dolan, then the archbishop there, requested permission from the Vatican to move nearly $57 million into a cemetery trust fund to protect the assets from victims of clergy sexual abuse who were demanding compensation.

Cardinal Dolan, now the archbishop of New York, has emphatically denied seeking to shield church funds as the archbishop of Milwaukee from 2002 to 2009. He reiterated in a statement Monday that these were “old and discredited attacks.”

However, the files contain a 2007 letter to the Vatican in which he explains that by transferring the assets, “I foresee an improved protection of these funds from any legal claim and liability.” The Vatican approved the request in five weeks, the files show.
So, it's pretty clear that the Cardinal's statements on this point, at any rate, have been, shall we say, more ingenious than ingenuous.

Cardinal Dolan's deposition makes interesting reading, as he at first denies the existence of a "practice" of paying priests two incremental payments of $10,000 for not contesting the laicization process (pp. 85-88), only to be confronted with a memo describing the "practice" (using the word the Cardinal rejected) from the Vicar of Clergy for the Archdiocese (pp. 88-89).

The deposition itself depicts Dolan in a series of moods--working his self-deprecating charm with jokes about believing his "gut" because "it's substantial", piously interjecting religious sentiments at sometimes odd moments, sometimes angry (interestingly, not at Jeffrey Anderson, the lawyer who took the deposition, whose courtesy is notable throughout, but at a priest who gave Anderson a statement that he would have to return the money to the Archdiocese if he "didn't go quietly"). I think it fair to say that Dolan is profoundly uncomfortable being deposed (who can blame him; it's not how I'd recommend spending a vacation day), and unused to not being in control.

A significant moment occurs when Anderson and the Archdiocese's attorney break into a quarrel over whether Anderson spoke with a New York Times reporter during a break, Dolan asks "Do I have to continue? I feel very uncomfortable continuing. I don't know if I have the spirit or the attitude to go on." (Pp. 96-97) His discomfort at the flare-up is evident; some raw emotion has leached into what has been up until that moment a formidably polite exchange.

From the point of that rupture, the Archdiocese's lawyer tries (unsuccessfully, in my opinion) to ruffle Anderson, accusing he's trying "to smear the Church," suggesting he let another attorney ask questions, and observing that "I know that doesn't fit your ego." (Pp. 104-105) Dolan again displays discomfort in the wake of this jab, saying he'd rather not answer a pending question about the timeliness of the CDF's response to request for laicization, and rather plaintively asking "do I have to?" (Pp. 105-106) If that was a strategic decision, Dolan may have shown himself as canny as his admirers think him. Later documents display that Dolan was frustrated with the delays from Rome, though he tries to soft-pedal it.

The deposition isn't a knock out; my reflections on Dolan's testimony are not to say that he embarrassed himself or did poorly. That said, the Archdiocese has released an enormous amount of material here, and it will take time to digest and analyze.

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