Paying Off Pervert Priests: Was Cardinal Timothy Dolan Just Being a Good Catholic?

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Earlier today, the Voice brought you news that Cardinal Timothy Dolan paid pervert priests up to 20 grand as "incentive" to get them to leave their posts when he ran the Archdiocese of Milwaukee.

Here's the thing: Dolan, according to Catholic law, might not have been doing anything wrong in authorizing this payoff. In fact, the canon might characterize this decision as being "a good Christian."

This afternoon, we reached out to Msgr. Thomas J. Green, J.C.D., who teaches at Catholic University of America's School of Canon Law and is an expert in the field.

We wanted to get a better sense of "laicization" -- the technical term for when a priest or nun leaves the Church and becomes a layperson.

Green broke it down for us...

Turns out, there area couple of different ways a cleric can leave the church -- via "laicization," which is voluntary, or via involuntary dismissal.

Laicization tends to be a long, drawn out process. "Technically speaking, that's because becoming a priest is seen by the Church as a very big deal and a very big commitment," he said. "It's a serious issue and they want to make them kind of think twice about it."

So, if a priest wanted to become a layperson, he would go to the bishop and explain his reasons. Then, the bishop would ask a staff member to prep a "dossier," which would then get sent to Rome for review, and would include everything from interviews detailing a priest's time in seminary to his performance in ministry. The bishop would also write up an opinion, but the Pope ultimately makes the decision.

"They're somewhat reluctant to do so unless you can really demonstrate there's a real psychological problem or something."

But what about when a priest is forced out of the church, for something such as child molestation?

"If a guy who is a priest abuses a child, that would be a major reason why you would be removed from the priesthood."

Rome is often involved in these cases, he said, but with urgent matters, the Pontiff can grant dioceses approval to handle the issue at the local level.

So how does money come into play with defrocking?

"When he's dismissed he no longer functions technically as a priest, but the very fact that he has been ordained at a certain point in time, there is something irrevocable about that. He could still theoretically say mass and perform certain sacraments."

Under canon law, he said, there's still a relationship between said priest and the diocese where he served.

"He still has to be supported to a little extent," according to canon law, Green said. "In many instances, he has no support. He really is totally dependent upon the church."

So, even if he had been dismissed for something really bad, the Church would not turn its back on him and leave him without money or healthcare. The diocese will
"be a good Christian to help the guy out," Green said.

Follow Victoria Bekiempis @vicbekiempis.



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6 comments
Staten Island Bob
Staten Island Bob

Regardless of the internal church mechanism for dealing with child molesters, one thing is certain, these were criminal acts, and the cover-up that involved moving the perverts around was an obstruction of justice. Yet this same man can call out Obama about abortion provisions in the Health Care law. I guess you could call that selective morality, (or selective law-breaking). How are these people allowed to skate on this? Does the voting bloc of Catholics always trump justice? (The same thing is true of a few other religions in this town that cover up acts of child molestation.) How can anyone even listen to a man who has such a background? Civil law should always overrule church doctrine when severe crimes are committed, with no exceptions allowed. To do anything less makes a mockery of our criminal justice system. Just who is going to protect our children if the churches can't be trusted, other than civil authority?

vito33
vito33

So we have the Pope's butler... (The Pope needs a butler??)... locked up in the Vatican jail for having some private documents in his apartment. The Vatican takes this VERY seriously. And of course this poor schmuck isn't an ordained anything, so he's done for. One good thing for him - he won't have to worry about being molested in there. I've never read a story about a child-raping priest being locked up in the Vatican jail.

Instead of dragging pedophile priests off to the Vatican jail, they pay them off. Because once you're a made man, you're always a made man!

"The Church That Forgot Christ" by Jimmy Breslin. Read it, and then talk to me about the policies of the Catholic church.

V.K. BLANCHE
V.K. BLANCHE

Nothing like smearing an entire religion in order to justify godlessness.

Victoria
Victoria

Just because Dolan gave priests money so that former priests can keep having healthcare and food, doesn't mean Dolan approved the bad actions of the priest.

What I said takes some logical thinking to understand. I learned about these rational, logical  thinking skills in philosophy class.

Becareful about that you infer, Just because you allow someone to live doesn't mean you support his bad behavior. It is logical and rational and sensible to keep someone alive and tell him, "What you are doing is wrong. Stop it!"

Mike
Mike

I thought this was a good explanation, although as casement says, the bishop is not always supportive.

I hate to nitpick, but a nun cannot be laicized because nuns are not ordained. Priests can be, along with transitional or permanent deacons, but not religious women. They are released from their vows, but technically they cannot be laicized.

Casement
Casement

What a croc of canonical @#$$!

Bishops don't rush in and support their priests.

I was falsely accused of having made an obscene phone call.Preposterous, and no charge filed but my bishop never intervened to support me financially, nor inquire, even of my needs.

Green is trying to be insititutionally clean!

So theoretically absurd!

He'd have a different read if he were accused and lacking financial support.

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