NEW YORK — A Feb. 20 deposition was a "long-awaited opportunity" for New York Cardinal Timothy M. Dolan to discuss decisions he made on clergy sex abuse cases as Milwaukee's archbishop, his spokesman said.
Joseph Zwilling said the three-hour closed session, first reported by The New York Times, gave the cardinal a chance "to talk about his decision nine years ago in Milwaukee to publicize the names of priests who had abused children and how he responded to the tragedy of past clergy sexual abuse of minors" as head of the Milwaukee Archdiocese.
Then-Archbishop Dolan headed the archdiocese from 2002 to 2009, when he was appointed to New York. He was made a cardinal in January 2012.
The cardinal "has indicated over the past two years that he was eager to cooperate in whatever way he could, and he was looking forward to talking about the good work and progress that took place to ensure the protection of children and pastoral outreach to victims," Zwilling added.
The Milwaukee Archdiocese in 2006 reached an out-of-court, $16.9 million settlement with victims of clerical sexual abuse. Then-Archbishop Dolan said the payout would mean "sacrifices in operations and ministries" but going to trial could have been worse in terms of archdiocesan financial liability, "to say nothing about the bad PR."
The archdiocese in 2011 filed for bankruptcy protection because of unresolved abuse claims. The U.S. Bankruptcy Court for the Eastern District of Wisconsin is handling its Chapter 11 reorganization.
The New York Times reported that the lawyers who deposed Cardinal Dolan in Manhattan were led by St. Paul, Minn., attorney Jeff Anderson and represent 575 people who have filed claims with the bankruptcy court asking for restitution as victims of sexual abuse perpetrated by clergy years earlier.
According to the paper, Anderson represents 350 of the claimants.
In October and November of 2011, retired Archbishop Rembert G. Weakland and current Auxiliary Bishop Richard J. Sklba were deposed.
Anderson fought to have those depositions made public, but in April 2012 Judge Susan V. Kelley, who is presiding over the archdiocese's bankruptcy proceedings, rejected his motion to unseal the documents. Among the reasons she gave in her ruling, she said no benefit to advancing the archdiocese's case would be served by unsealing the materials.
She also said there was the risk that even with careful redaction of the documents, identification of survivors of sexual abuse would result.
Across the country, Cardinal Roger M. Mahony, retired archbishop of Los Angeles, was scheduled to be deposed Feb. 23, according to The Associated Press. A few days after the deposition Cardinal Mahony, one of the 117 cardinal-electors eligible to vote for the next pope, was to leave for Rome for the upcoming conclave.
The deposition is related to a lawsuit filed in 2010 by a man identified as Juan Doe in court papers who claims that in 1997 he was sexually abused by a priest from Mexico, then-Fr. Nicolas Aguilar Rivera, serving in the Los Angeles Archdiocese.
Aguilar, defrocked in 2009, is a fugitive. He has a 20-year-old warrant pending in Los Angeles for his arrest on 19 counts of child rape.
The suit accuses Cardinal Mahony and Cardinal Norberto Rivera Carrera of Mexico City of transferring the priest between dioceses even though he apparently had a history of sexual abuse. At the time Cardinal Rivera was bishop of Tehuacan in the state of Puebla, Mexico.
When the lawsuit was filed an archdiocesan spokesman said that "Cardinal Mahony was not warned of the priest's history" before he was transferred into the archdiocese.
The Archdiocese of Mexico City has called the accusations against Cardinal Rivera "calumnious and defamatory."
On Jan. 31, under court order, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles released thousands of pages of personnel files and focused new attention on the archdiocese's response to clergy sexual abuse cases.