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Issue Date:  May 6, 2005

Dolan backs off priest monitoring


Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan is not shy about admitting mistakes.

“It was ‘bassackwards!’ ” Dolan told Milwaukee priests in an April 15 e-mail, referring to implementation of two programs designed to monitor the behavior of troubled priests.

“Like the rest of you,” Dolan told the priests, “I woke up this morning to the headlines and article in the newspaper, and found myself upset. I’m perhaps even more upset than you all because I caused it!”

Dolan was referring to the archdiocese’s clergy advocacy and monitoring program (CAMP) -- an effort to supervise priests and deacons found to have abused minors -- and its “Clerical Support Initiative,” which would have subjected clergy with other serious problems, such as addiction or alcoholism, to intrusive inspections and oversight.

Following an outcry from priests and others in the archdiocese, Dolan suspended implementation of the programs.

Among the techniques that would have been allowed under the programs were unscheduled inspections of clergy residences. “These visits may be made at any time of the day or night, seven days per week,” according to program guidelines.

In addition to seeking treatment for their troubles, priests under the programs could have faced restrictions on their ministry, including identifying themselves as a priest or deacon. Other possible restrictions included limits on computer use, monitoring of travel and relocation of their homes. A priest “may … be required to move his residence to a residence that is approved by the archbishop,” according to the guidelines.

Further, the guidelines stipulated that priests and deacons in one of the programs “must abide by any other directives established due to special circumstances as deemed necessary and appropriate by the program managers.”

Materials on the programs were originally distributed to Milwaukee priests as a 12-page update to the archdiocesan “clergy manual,” a bureaucratic procedure that masked the controversial policies included in the new programs. “When people finally took note of the content and the process,” said Fr. Kenneth Mich, pastor of Good Shepherd Parish in Menomonee Falls, “there was a firestorm of reaction.”

In his e-mail, Dolan stood by the intent of the programs. “The provisions of this program (CAMP) only apply to those against whom there has been a substantiation of illegal/immoral abuse of a minor,” while the Clerical Support Initiative “is a provisional, first-step attempt to help priests who have admitted a problem -- whether with, for example, alcohol, gambling, sexual immorality with an adult -- and only after consultation with them, [to] continue their recovery and be open to accountability.”

Said Dolan, “Most of the priests who are in recovery from alcohol addiction, or on the rebound from a fall in the area of chastity, are very grateful for some follow-up and fraternal support. This was only an effort to formalize that.”

Nevertheless, Dolan acknowledged, “the perception … is that we have declared martial law on priests, are continuing to trample upon their rights, and do not trust them at all.” In the April 15 e-mail, Dolan blamed that “perception” on press reports that did not make “distinctions” about the programs. In a subsequent e-mail Dolan said: “How in the world I was not more vigilant in seeing that such a delicate and sensitive document was not given intensive scrutiny by our Council of Priests is beyond me, and a cause for shame and sorrow.”

Mich, spokesman for the Milwaukee Archdiocese Priest Alliance, an independent priests’ organization, said Dolan’s initial support for the programs was in line with a leadership style that has on other occasions failed to bring archdiocesan priests into the decision-making process. Still, said Mich, Dolan’s apologies went a long way toward removing “some of the heat from the issue.” Mich said the priests’ alliance is supportive of establishing written guidelines for troubled priests, but is less concerned with the substance of such directives at this point than the process by which they are arrived at.

Any new procedures, said Dolan, will only be adopted after the “widest possible consultation.”

National Catholic Reporter, May 6, 2005

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