Archbishop Timothy Dolan of New York criticized as “malarkey” and “ridiculous and groundless gossip” a lawyer’s claim that while he was the head of the Milwaukee archdiocese, he hid $130 million in archdiocesan funds so that victims of sexual abuse could not sue for it.
He said the charges were “terribly irresponsible” and he invited law enforcement to speak with him about his time as Archbishop of Milwaukee.
“I have nothing to hide,” he said after Sunday Mass at St. Patrick’s Cathedral, the New York Daily News reports.
“Unfortunately, this man got the attention he wanted and has come to expect from the news, tarnishing the good name of the Archdiocese of Milwaukee, and of me,” Archbishop Dolan said on his blog.
“Lord knows I’ve made mistakes, but ‘hiding’ $130 million is hardly one of them!”
Attorney Jeff Anderson of St. Paul, Minnesota, who has represented a large number of alleged clergy sex abuse victims, recently suggested at a bankruptcy court hearing that the Milwaukee archdiocese moved $75 million out of its bank accounts after financial statements in 2003-2004. He also inquired about the transfer of a separate $55 million into a cemetery trust fund created in 2008.
Milwaukee archdiocese’s chief financial officer John Marek could not answer questions about the $75 million, which was transferred before he was hired in 2007. However, he said the cemetery funds had previously been in an account under the archbishop’s control but were always “treated as a trust,” the Milwaukee Journal-Sentinel reports.
Anderson has said he wants to depose current and past bishops of Milwaukee, including Archbishop Dolan.
In response, Archbishop Dolan noted that he could not have “hidden” $130 million under the “rigorous supervision” of his financial council.
He explained that the parishes of the Milwaukee area had $70 million on deposit with the archdiocese. This money was returned under the advisement of the financial council and outside auditors.
“This was not archdiocesan money at all, but belonged to parishes,” he explained, adding that the cemetery fund is also protected by law and cannot be transferred by anybody.
“So, these silly charges are baloney,” Archbishop Dolan said.
Milwaukee archdiocese spokeswoman Julie Wolf backed up Dolan’s description of the parish funds. While the archdiocese had held parish funds in an investment account until 2004, it “ceased providing such services.”
The cemetery trust, she said, was created in 2007 to “formalize the existing trust relationship” that dated to the early 1900s.
Wolf said that the archdiocese has been “liquidating all nonessential assets for years to help pay for the costs of therapy and voluntary settlements.”
Archbishop Dolan added, “during my years as Archbishop of Milwaukee, and with the generous service of many dedicated people, we established a mediation process that reached settlements with almost 200 victim survivors; that mediation process has been praised by the victim survivors who have participated in the process.”
The archdiocese says most of its assets are in trusts and restricted accounts, but this leaves only about $7 million for settlements. Victims’ attorneys intend to challenge the restrictions on the funds.
Anderson claims to have won more than $60 million in settlements from the Catholic Church in the U.S. He has recently extended his practice to the U.K.