In light of the recent media coverage surrounding financial compensation for priest offenders, the chief of staff for the Archdiocese of Milwaukee distributed the following letter:
May 31, 2012
When we watch the news or read the morning papers and see stories about the Archdiocese of Milwaukee or clergy sexual abuse, we have come to expect that we’ll only see or read part of the story.
Yesterday’s news reports talked about “payoffs” and “bonuses” to a handful of offender priests with substantiated allegations of clergy sexual abuse of a minor. Here are some details to help you understand all of the facts related to this story.
For starters, one has to remember that, in 2002, the Catholic Church adopted the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops’ Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People, affirming that priest offenders should no longer be functioning as priests in any capacity.
Also in 2002, at the height of the publicity about clergy sexual abuse, advocates for abuse survivors were demanding that all priest offenders be “defrocked” or laicized.
Responding to that demand, the archdiocesan finance council, which is made up of respected lay leaders in the community, discussed the most expedient and cost-effective way to have offenders laicized or removed from the priesthood. Having someone seek laicization voluntarily was faster and less expensive. It made sense to try and move these men out of the priesthood as quickly as possible.
As part of the voluntary laicization process, the archdiocese assisted men who were leaving ministry by providing them with funds for transition. This assistance was provided regardless of the reason for seeking laicization. Some men used these funds for living expenses while they sought secular employment, others used them for medical expenses, and others for seeking training in a new field of work. The archdiocese no longer provides this financial assistance.
The financial payments were made to a handful of priest offenders to move them through this process. Like it or not, the archdiocese is canonically responsible for the financial care of a priest – even a priest who has committed such a horrible crime and sin such as clergy sexual abuse of a minor.
We believe that the archdiocese practiced sound stewardship in taking the most financially sound and efficient way to move these offenders out of the priesthood, allowing the funds that would have otherwise been spent on sustenance for offenders, to instead be used for care and outreach to abuse survivors.
Thanks to the efforts of Cardinal Dolan and now Archbishop Listecki, no organization in our community has been more transparent regarding child sexual abuse than the Catholic Church.
As we have seen in the past, however, facts that have been known for years (the information about the payment of $10,000 to Franklyn Becker is on the archdiocesan website), have been distorted or exaggerated to place the Church in the worst possible light – especially as we navigate our way through the Chapter 11 proceeding.
Thank you for allowing me to share the “other side of the story” so that you had all of the facts and a better picture of what really took place -- and why. Sadly, this recent news coverage is a distraction to what is most important for the archdiocese and for all affected by the clergy abuse crisis.
Our priority is to move forward, mindful of the past and with care and concern for abuse survivors, while ensuring to the best of our ability that nothing like this ever happens again. In addition, we must also be mindful of the need to continue the good work of the Church in southeastern Wisconsin through the services and ministries that serve parishes, schools and others in need.
Chief of Staff
Archdiocese of Milwaukee