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Judge reverses Cardinal Dolan's transfer of millions

$55 million was budgeted for cemetery upkeep instead of abuse victim claims

  • Michael D'Antonio
  • United States
  • January 18, 2013
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Who is more deserving: victims of childhood sexual abuse at the hands of Catholic priests, or dead people moldering in their graves?

When he was Archbishop of Milwaukee, Timothy Dolan chose the dead people, placing US$55 million into cemetery trust funds and out of the reach of local abuse victims suing the Church. (They want compensation for the suffering caused by childhood sexual trauma.) Dolan left Milwaukee to take the most visible post in Catholic America –cardinal of New York City – but he could not escape his choice. The victims asked a federal bankruptcy judge to reverse him, and on Friday she did. For now the $55 million is available to settle hundreds of well-documented cases in which priests raped and sexually molested children and adolescents.

Bankruptcy Judge Susan V Kelley discussed her decision in court on Friday, explaining that neither First Amendment protections for religion nor federal law protect the archdiocese from her authority. She sided with creditors in the bankruptcy proceedings, who said the main purpose of the 2008 transfer was to place it out of their reach. In fact the archdiocese had managed the task of mowing the grass and otherwise maintaining cemeteries for generations without a $55 million trust generating income for that purpose.

Although lawyers for the Church will challenge Kelley, she stands on solid legal ground and the federal district court judges that consider such issues rarely overrule their colleagues in bankruptcy courts. Also, Kelley's track record in this controversial and complicated case would defy any argument that she has favored the creditors. Indeed, last month she refused an attempt by them to claw-back $35 million that Dolan had distributed to local parishes. "Arguably there was something 'fishy' about the transfer," noted Kelley at the time.

But in that instance the funds had originated in local parishes and one could reasonably argue they were simply getting the money back. This time the fishy smell was stronger, and Kelley put hundreds of other cases on hold to resolve the question in favor of the creditors.

Full story: Cardinal Dolan and the dead lose one to the living

Source: Huffington Post Religion

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