Archdiocese documents show priests paid to leave

Published on NewsOK Modified: July 1, 2013 at 8:53 pm •  Published: July 1, 2013
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In 2005, as settlements with clergy sex abuse victims were piling up, Dolan wrote to the Vatican office in charge of the matter and recommended it kick Wagner out.

"The liability for the Archdiocese is great as is the potential for scandal if it appears that no definitive action has been taken," Dolan wrote to Archbishop Angelo Amato, of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith. Wagner showed no remorse, Dolan wrote, "His only concern has been his financial status."

Dolan said that if the Vatican agreed to dismiss Wagner, an archdiocese fund could pay for his needs until he was eligible for a pension. Dolan didn't receive a response until 2008, when he re-submitted his request along with details of new allegations against Wagner.

"The liability for the Archdiocese is great, as is the potential for scandal if it appears that no definitive action has been taken," he wrote. "Our new found awareness of the severity of damage caused by sexual abuse at the hands of clergy makes it impossible for us to ignore this situation or allow any longer the unresolved nature of this case."

Amato then recommended Dolan ask Wagner to leave voluntarily, which Dolan did. Wagner's attorney rejected the request, saying the $20,000 payment that Dolan offered wouldn't cover the priest's expenses for the two years until his retirement. Wagner wasn't officially defrocked until 2012.

A working telephone number for him could not be found Monday, and he did not immediately respond to an email message.

Topczewski said the archdiocese had had a practice of paying priests leaving the priesthood for years before Dolan took over. Most of them were not accused of wrongdoing, and the money helped them transition into their new lives, he said.

At least three priests accused of sexual abuse received payments when they left the priesthood before Dolan's arrival, according to the documents. Six more left under Dolan, accepting the archdiocese's offer of $10,000 when they voluntarily agreed to leave the priesthood and another $10,000 when Vatican officials announced their decision about the priest's future.

Topczewski said the money covered the men's health care, but it also got "priests out quicker. That's what victims were asking for."

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Associated Press writers Dinesh Ramde in Milwaukee, Rachel Zoll in New York, Michael Tarm in Chicago, Brian Bakst in St. Paul, Minn.; and Doug Glass in Minneapolis contributed to this report.

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Online:

Archdiocese of Milwaukee: http://www.archmil.org/archmil/home.htm

Victims' attorneys: http://www.andersonadvocates.com/default.aspx

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Follow M.L. Johnson on Twitter at https://twitter.com/MLJohnsonOnline



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