Court vindicates cardinal who shielded funds from abuse victims
United States, 01 August 2013: The Archdiocese of Milwaukee can shield more than $50 million from creditors in sex-abuse settlements because the money is in a cemetery fund protected by the First Amendment's guarantee of religious freedom, according to a federal court ruling.
Sex-abuse victims have accused the archdiocese of shifting money into the fund to avoid having to pay them, while the archdiocese has said the money was always intended for cemetery care. A judge ruled Monday that Catholic cemeteries are sacred to believers, so setting money aside to maintain them represents the free exercise of religion.
The cemetery trust was formed in 2007 by then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan, four years before the archdiocese filed for bankruptcy protection to deal with hundreds of sex-abuse claims. Dolan specifically wrote to the Vatican seeking permission to move $57 million into the trust.
Archdiocese spokeswoman Julie Wolf said the trust was established for the perpetual care of cemetery sites and funded by sales of cemetery plots and mausoleums.
"Because these funds were held in trust as prescribed by canon law, they were independent of the general assets and could only be used for their intended and pledged purpose — to care for the resting places of the departed as sacred places under canon law," she said in a written statement. Source: UCAN