Cardinal Timothy Dolan, head of the Archdiocese of New York and president of the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, is a major player in the fight to preserve marriage discrimination against same-sex couples. He led his brother bishops in a sustained campaign of spiritual bullying against LGBT people and their Catholic allies that became a top priority for church leaders. In fact, Dolan -- more than any other prelate -- represents the public face of institutional Catholic homophobia in America.
Dolan's bigotry isn't new, either. In 2006, anti-gay activists in my home state of Wisconsin put a constitutional marriage discrimination amendment before voters in the November midterm election. While I, my husband Michael, and thousands of other equality supporters pounded pavement, knocked on doors, lobbied our elected officials, testified at hearings, and held rallies, educational events, and one-on-one conversations across the state in an ultimately ill-fated effort to defeat the bigoted ballot measure, Dolan -- then the Archbishop of Milwaukee -- led the Wisconsin Catholic Conference in exhorting Catholics to vote in favor of excluding gay and lesbian couples from civil marriage.
As it turns out, marriage discrimination wasn't the only thing then-Archbishop Dolan took pains to protect. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel reports that under Dolan's watch, the Milwaukee Archdiocese made payments to suspected pedophile priests who agreed to step down from priestly ministry:
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee confirmed Wednesday that it paid suspected pedophile priests to surrender their clerical collars, after a document surfaced in its bankruptcy discussing a 2003 proposal to pay $20,000 to "unassignable priests" who accept laicization. . .
A document made public in the archdiocese's bankruptcy recounts a 2003 meeting of its Finance Council, which included then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan and his auxiliary, Bishop Richard Sklba. According to the minutes, members discussed the church's handling of sex abuse complaints, a looming budget deficit and various proposals to cut costs. Among them: offering "unassignable priests" $20,000 for laicization, "($10,000 at the start and $10,000 at the completion of the process)."
The church has acknowledged paying $10,000 to at least one former priest, Franklyn Becker, who was defrocked in 2004, after Isely, who learned of the payment from Becker, raised the issue in 2006.
The 2003 minutes appear to be the first indication that the archdiocese may have had a formal policy to pay problem priests to leave.
A second former priest, Jerome Wagner of Fond du Lac, said Wednesday that he received $20,000 to seek laicization but characterized it as charity rather than a payoff on the part of the archdiocese.