Cardinal Dolan addressed the Church’s sex abuse crisis and what the archdiocese is doing to confront the problem when he spoke to members of the Metropolitan Club in Manhattan April 8.
“I mourn the grave damage that many victims—we count over 300 brave victims who have come forward—and their families have endured,” Cardinal Dolan said. “I repent for the sins and crimes of the priests—almost all of whom are deceased, and those living permanently removed from ministry—who have abused, and for my predecessors in the past who did not always act with the rigor justice requires in removing these perpetrators.
“It has brought about not only deep wounds in the survivors and their families, but has seriously hurt our faithful people and our loyal priests—the towering majority of whom have led virtuous, faithful lives—and has damaged the credibility of the Church in the wider community.”
The Independent Reconciliation and Compensation Program, established by the cardinal in October 2016 to assess claims of sexual abuse and award compensation to victims, has given $60 million in compensation to 314 victims. Just three substantiated abuse cases have taken place in the archdiocese since 2002, when the U.S. bishops adopted the Charter for the Protection of Children and Young People.
Cardinal Dolan outlined the steps taken when abuse is claimed, including counseling for the victims at the archdiocese’s expense. The local district attorney’s office determines if the allegation is credible and if charges can be filed. If charges cannot be filed, the case is given to the archdiocese for an independent investigation, and the priest steps aside from his duties and his parish is contacted.
After the investigation is completed, the review board sends its decision to Cardinal Dolan. If the complaint is substantiated, the priest is removed from active ministry and his current and former parishes are notified. If the case is not substantiated, the priest returns to active ministry.
While the cardinal called the number of victims “heart-breaking,” he said the fact “there is an effective, autonomous procedure in place to hear complaints and provide some resolution is an important step toward healing, as victims have testified. We continue to invite people to come forward.”
Cardinal Dolan also noted that the archdiocese’s Safe Environment Program requires training for clergy, employees and volunteers who work with children and young people. Background checks must be renewed every six years.
Following his talk, Cardinal Dolan answered questions from members where he was able to express some of the positive happenings in the archdiocese. He mentioned being in the Bronx earlier in the day to bless the property of St. Augustine Terrace, a project of archdiocesan Catholic Charities with 112 units of affordable housing for low-income families constructed on land where a parish church once stood.
Cardinal Dolan was asked about the 2018 formation of the Mother Cabrini Health Foundation, which resulted from the $3.75 billion sale of Fidelis Care to Centene Corp. The foundation, started with a base of $3.2 billion, will give $150 million annually in grants to assist low-income New Yorkers.
“Thanks for asking because that’s good news which is going to (promote) the good work that the Church does,” Cardinal Dolan said.
Robert Strang, president of the Metropolitan Club, told CNY that the club, located at 60th Street and Fifth Avenue, is a short walk from St. Patrick’s Cathedral and has traditionally enjoyed a good relationship with the archdiocese. He said many members attend Mass on Sunday at St. Patrick’s before having brunch at the club.
“He’s our favorite speaker,” said Strang of Cardinal Dolan. “The members just love having him here. Tonight was a very direct conversation and a little bit different than the normal conversation the cardinal has, but, nonetheless, it was empowering, enlightening, and I think it was well accepted by our members.
“It was nice for our members to hear directly from the cardinal what the Church is doing, where they stand and really dealing with it in a very powerful way.”