There are all sorts of arguments to be made about how the Catholic hierarchy handles priests accused of sexual abuse of minors. My view – call me crazy – is that people who sexually abuse minors should be reported directly to the police and fired. Canon law should not require paying for the retirement of child rapists, or taking care of them for the rest of their lives. Cardinal Dolan – the man leading the crusade against contraception in universal healthcare and the civil rights of gays and lesbians – disagrees. He provided payments to encourage priests to accept defrocking in order to accelerate the process under canon law, as Laurie Goodstein reports today. I'm with the victims on this:
“In what other occupation, especially one working with families and operating schools and youth programs, is an employee given a cash bonus for raping and sexually assaulting children?”
But that's the morality of current canon law. Cardinal Dolan's not responsible for existing canon law. But the real issue here is not what Dolan did, but that it now seems clear he lied about it:
Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan of New York authorized payments of as much as $20,000 to sexually abusive priests as an incentive for them to agree to dismissal from the priesthood when he was the archbishop of Milwaukee. Questioned at the time about the news that one particularly notorious pedophile cleric had been given a “payoff” to leave the priesthood, Cardinal Dolan, then the archbishop, responded that such an inference was “false, preposterous and unjust.”
"False, preposterous and unjust" is quite a statement. New evidence from the records, however, show Dolan was at the very meeting the payoffs were agreed to (just as the current Pope was at a meeting that allowed a child rapist to go on to assault and abuse more children). Dolan may recall that lying violates one of the ten commandments (which, for some mystifying reason did not include "Thou Shalt Not Have Non-Procreative Sex"). Maybe there's some exculpatory explanation for what appears to be, on its face, a bald-faced and aggressive lie. So far:
Cardinal Dolan, who is president of the national bishops’ conference and fast becoming the nation’s most high-profile Roman Catholic cleric, did not respond to several requests for comment.
And so we wait for Dolan's confession. I doubt the victims of rape will provide absolution.
(Photo: US cardinal Timothy Michael Dolan gestures prior to the mass led by Pope Benedict XVI with new Cardinals in St. Peter's basilica at the Vatican on February 19, 2012. By Alberto Pizzoli/AFP/Getty Images)