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New York archbishop deposed in abuse lawsuit

By Matt Smith, CNN
updated 8:19 PM EST, Wed February 20, 2013
Cardinal Timothy Dolan sat for questions from lawyers for victims of sexual abuse by priests, his office said Wednesday.
Cardinal Timothy Dolan sat for questions from lawyers for victims of sexual abuse by priests, his office said Wednesday.
STORY HIGHLIGHTS
  • Dolan's old archdiocese in Milwaukee filed for bankruptcy in the face of abuse lawsuits
  • He "was eager to cooperate" in the deposition, his office said
  • Dolan is now archbishop of New York and a cardinal who will help choose the next pope

(CNN) -- New York's Cardinal Timothy Dolan sat for questions from lawyers for victims of sexual abuse by priests in Milwaukee while he was that city's Roman Catholic leader, his office disclosed Wednesday.

"Today Cardinal Dolan had the long-awaited opportunity 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, during the time he was privileged to serve as archbishop of Milwaukee," Joseph Zwilling, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of New York, said in a written statement.

"He 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."

Dolan was archbishop of Milwaukee from 2002 to 2009 before taking the same position in New York, the Catholic Church's top U.S. pulpit. The church has been rocked globally by revelations that it failed to stop the sexual abuse of children by priests for decades, and Dolan's old archdiocese filed for bankruptcy in the face of numerous lawsuits by victims.

The Chapter 11 proceedings led to the discovery that Dolan had approved payments of $20,000 to get abusive priests to leave the church in 2003. The Milwaukee archdiocese confirmed that it had offered the payoffs as "the most expedient and cost-effective way" to get rid of them.

"Like it or not, the archdiocese is canonically responsible for the financial care of a priest -- even a priest who has committed such a horrible crime and sin such as clergy sexual abuse of a minor," the archdiocese said in a statement in May that confirmed the payments.

A leading victims' group said it was heartened that Dolan had sat for a deposition, saying he had been "particularly adept at evading responsibility" for his actions.

"So while these depositions represent progress, it's crucial to remember that the best way to prevent and discourage future crimes and cover ups is for secular authorities to investigate, charge and convict Catholic officials who hide and enable heinous crimes against kids," the Survivor's Network for those Abused by Priests said.

Dolan, who also serves as president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, is among the cardinals who will choose a new pope after the resignation of Benedict XVI. Dolan himself was a 33-1 longshot for the papacy as of last week, according to one British bookmaker.

Vatican: Pope may change rules to allow replacement vote sooner

CNN's Ross Levitt contributed to this report.

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