Being sexually abused by a trusted member of a church community is devastating, and can affect the rest of a victim’s life. Many of those impacted sexual abuse in the Catholic church were upset to recently hear that priests facing sexual abuse accusations received large payments to leave the priesthood.
The Wall Street Journal reported that the Wisconsin archdiocese was paying priests to leave the ministry after sexual abuse allegations surfaced. A court document pertaining to the archdiocese’s bankruptcy case, produced by a victims’ advocacy group, referenced a 2003 proposal to pay “unassignable priests” $20,000 in exchange for their agreement to leave the ministry. The cardinal and head of the New York archdiocese was included in the 2003 meeting minutes where the payments were referenced.
The church said the payments were a type of charity, meant to assist individuals in their transition from the priesthood. Advocates for sexual abuse victims see the money as a payoff to child molesters. “They needed to have been fired. You don’t pay someone who has committed a criminal act. You fire them. Period,” stated the Midwest director for the Survivors Network of Those Abused by Priests (SNAP).
A spokesperson for the archdiocese said the payments were a form of severance pay. She said she thought payments were made up to two or three years ago. In fiscal year 2010 the archdiocese paid $90,000 to priests accused of sexual abuse, according to a letter sent by the Milwaukee Archbishop. The letter also stated that nine clerics, restricted from the ministry based on substantiated sexual abuse allegations, would be told financial assistance would be coming to an end.
Source: The Wall Street Journal, “Wis. archdiocese no longer paying priests to leave,” May 31, 2012.