Dolan’s Track Record Exemplifies Cover-up Practices Within Catholic Church Hierarchy
February 17, 2012, New York – The Center for Constitutional Rights (CCR) and the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests (SNAP) strongly condemn Pope Benedict’s appointment of Archbishop Timothy Dolan to Cardinal of the Archdiocese of New York. Dolan’s mishandling of child sexual abuse cases is well-documented, from failing to report direct admissions by offending priests to actively lobbying against reforming statutes of limitations on child sexual abuse cases in Wisconsin. The archbishop’s track record is consistent with the Catholic Church’s record of covering up child sex abuse allegations.
On September 13, 2011, CCR and SNAP filed a complaint before the International Criminal Court charging that Vatican officials are responsible for policies and practices of cover-up that have enabled widespread and systemic rape and sexual violence against children and vulnerable adults. Together with the complaint, they submitted more than 20,000 pages of supporting materials consisting of findings and reports of commissions of inquiry and grand juries, testimonies, and other documentary evidence of sex crimes by Catholic clergy and of the policies and practices involved in the cover-ups.
Among the documents submitted in support of the complaint are letters between Dolan and then-Cardinal Ratzinger concerning Father Franklyn Becker. Becker was diagnosed as a pedophile as early as 1983 when serving in Milwaukee and, though the archdiocese of Milwaukee knew he continued to re-offend, Becker was nonetheless allowed to continue to work in several parishes. It was only when Becker was arrested in California in 2003 for the sexual assault of a child that Dolan wrote to Ratzinger requesting that Becker be defrocked. Ratzinger’s office replied that Dolan should inquire whether Becker would voluntarily request his own defrocking rather than be laicized involuntarily by the Vatican.
As recently evidenced by the case of prominent Harlem pastor Msgr. Wallace A. Harris, Dolan’s handling of child sex abuse cases has not changed since his Milwaukee and St. Louis days. In 2010, Harris, who had been accused of sexually assaulting more than 10 boys, was allowed to step down under a false pretense. Dolan, who by this time was already Archbishop of New York, quietly let him do so without informing the authorities or warning parishioners. More than a year and a half after the fact, the Vatican admonished him to live “a life of prayer and penance.” Due to the statute of limitations in New York, Harris has avoided criminal charges.
Dolan’s role in these and other notorious cases underscores the need for a criminal investigation of Church officials for their responsibility in the widespread and systematic concealment of child rape throughout the world. In addition, the Pope’s decision to elevate Dolan within the church hierarchy despite his abysmal record shows clearly that the Vatican cannot be trusted to hold its own officials accountable for their role in concealing sex crimes.
SNAP is the world’s oldest and largest support group for clergy abuse victims. It has existed for 23 years and has more than 10,000 members. Despite the word “priest” in its title, it has members who were molested by religious figures of all denominations, including nuns, rabbis, bishops, and Protestant ministers. Visit www.snapnetwork.org
The Center for Constitutional Rights is dedicated to advancing and protecting the rights guaranteed by the United States Constitution and the Universal Declaration of Human Rights. Founded in 1966 by attorneys who represented civil rights movements in the South, CCR is a non-profit legal and educational organization committed to the creative use of law as a positive force for social change.