Cardinal Timothy Dolan of New York is nothing if not a savvy political operative. He has mastered the “art of the deal” throughout his ecclesiastical career and has managed to rise to the top of the church hierarchy in this country. And he has done it by being a master at public relations.
While lobbying aggressively against any statute of limitations reform for sexual abuse survivors, he has announced the establishment of an Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program. The fund is designed to compensate survivors of sexual abuse who have suffered at the hands of the Archdiocese of New York’s priests while denying them any opportunity for justice in the civil courts.
From Dolan’s point of view, it’s a brilliant public relations ploy that makes him appear compassionate and merciful to sex abuse survivors while preserving his church from further scandal. Anne Barrett Doyle, co-director of BishopAccountability.org, a Massachusetts-based advocacy group that maintains records of clergy abuse, called the New York fund “another tactic designed to fend off disclosure.“
While Dolan admitted that the clergy abuse crisis is not a thing of the past, this latest gesture doesn’t address the root of the problem-full disclosure concerning the Archdiocese’s role in the abuse scandal and the public outing of priest offenders. It’s a band-aid for a bullet hole.
Gary Greenberg, an upstate investor who created a political action committee that is backing state candidates who support the Child Victims Act, said the church’s new program will do little to deter the effort to get the Legislature to pass the bill next year.
“Cardinal Dolan sees the writing on the wall — he knows the Child Victims Act will pass next year,” said Greenberg, who was sexually abused by a hospital worker in 1966. “This is an obvious attempt to circumvent justice by creating a committee of members that he selects who will offer priest abuse survivors the opportunity of a settlement outside the legal system, and only in return for sacrificing (victims’) rights. . . “The church’s continued resistance to passing sensible legislation to protect children prevents child abusers from being held responsible and provides them with the legal protection they need to continue to rape more children,” he said. “It’s disgusting. Cardinal Dolan should be ashamed of himself.”
When he was Archbishop of Milwaukee, Dolan himself testified before the Wisconsin legislature against statute of limitations reform. While archbishop of New York he has lobbied behind the scenes to ensure defeat of six years’ worth of SOL reform. He is no friend of sexual abuse survivors. He is however the master of the bait and switch.
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