Cardinal Dolan addressed the state’s Child Victims Act and abuse allegations against a retired priest of the archdiocese as well as the upcoming retreat of the nation’s bishops in an interview this week with Catholic New York.
One subject the cardinal stressed in the early-morning interview Dec. 31, which took place at his residence in Manhattan, matched the topic of his op-ed about the Child Victims Act published the same day in the Daily News.
The cardinal, speaking to CNY, said there has been an inaccurate perception that the Catholic bishops of New York state have “always” been opposed to the legislation that would benefit victims who were sexually abused as minors.
In his decade as Archbishop of New York, the cardinal said the state’s bishops have favored the Child Victims Act while expressing “high reservations” about a look-back provision that would suspend the statute of limitations and open a window for previously barred civil claims going back indefinitely.
“We’re worried about the look-back legislation because it only seems to have the Catholic Church in the crosshairs,” Cardinal Dolan said.
The experience of the Archdiocese of New York—as well as four other dioceses in the state—with the Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program (IRCP) established by Cardinal Dolan in October 2016 has demonstrated “magnificent therapeutic benefits” for nearly 300 victims who have come forward in the archdiocese. “We see the benefits of a carefully crafted, fair program of compensation,” the cardinal said.
“We think it’s time to do that in the state, as long as the emphasis is on the victim first, no matter by whom they were abused,” the cardinal said. “The benefit of the bill would not be to punish or bankrupt whoever abused them, or the institution for whom they were working, but to help the victim heal.
“If that could be achieved, we would gladly work with the governor and with our elected leaders in the Assembly and Senate, to achieve a fair and balanced Child Victims Act.”
Father Donald Timone, 84, the retired priest of the archdiocese, was instructed to step aside from priestly ministry last month by Auxiliary Bishop Gerald Walsh, vicar for clergy.
An allegation of sexual abuse of a minor, made against Father Timone in 2002, was found unsubstantiated by the archdiocese’s Review Board at the time. According to a letter written by Bishop Walsh to parishioners of St. Joseph’s in Middletown, where Father Timone had been in residence, the original complaint was brought to the IRCP, “and, in the course of its investigation, new information came to light. This resulted in compensation being paid.”
The cardinal told CNY that the entire situation, even with the resulting negative news coverage it inspired, “kind of shows that things work.”
“We were aware of the accusations 15 years ago, took them seriously. They were not deemed substantiated…New evidence came in. (Kenneth) Feinberg, (the administrator of the IRCP) decides in their favor, hands over the data for us. We now remove Timone and the ordinary process will click in.”
As Bishop Walsh’s letter says, “Upon learning that the IRCP did grant compensation, the archdiocese asked the Review Board if they would be willing to re-examine the case, to see if the new information or other material would perhaps cause them to change their original determination that the allegation had not been substantiated. The Review Board agreed to do so, and that process is now under way.”
The cardinal also said he was looking forward to traveling to Chicago to join his fellow bishops from around the country for a weeklong spiritual retreat at Mundelein Seminary, Jan. 2-8, which Pope Francis had suggested.
“If we get all the pastors, the bishops, of this country, on their knees in prayer for a week that has got to produce grace,” Cardinal Dolan said. “That’s got to bring God’s mercy, healing and illumination.
“It’s got to give our people a powerful lesson that the crises facing the Church today…can only be healed by God’s grace.”