NEW YORK — New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan, just days ahead of his departure for Rome and the conclave that will elect the next pope, has been deposed about clergy sex abuse in his former Archdiocese of Milwaukee.
Dolan, who led Milwaukee's Roman Catholics from 2002 to 2009, answered questions Wednesday about his decision to publicize names of clergy members who had been accused of molesting children in cases that are mostly decades old, church attorney Frank LoCoco said.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an independent network of abuse victims and their supporters, said it would press to make the transcript of Dolan's testimony public.
The deposition is part of a bankruptcy case filed in 2011 by Dolan's Wisconsin successor, Archbishop Jerome Listecki, over abuse claims by nearly 500 people. Many Milwaukee church officials, including another former archbishop, Rembert Weakland, have been deposed.
Dolan had long awaited the chance to answer the attorneys' questions, Archdiocese of New York spokesman Joseph Zwilling said.
"He has indicated over the past two years that he was eager to cooperate in whatever way he could," Zwilling said in a statement.
Dolan, president of the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, has been mentioned on some Vatican analysts' lists of cardinals who could be elected in the upcoming conclave, though he is considered a longshot. He is one of two U.S. cardinals to be deposed this week in cases related to the abuse scandal, which erupted in 2002 in the Archdiocese of Boston, then spread through the United States to Europe and beyond.
Cardinal Roger Mahony, the retired Los Angeles archbishop, is scheduled to be questioned Saturday in a lawsuit over a visiting Mexican priest who police believe molested 26 children in 1987. The Rev. Nicolas Aguilar Rivera fled to Mexico in 1988 after parents complained. He has been ousted from the priesthood but remains a fugitive.
Pressure has been building in Italy for Mahony to bow out of the conclave. A few weeks ago, the Archdiocese of Los Angeles under court order released thousands of pages from the confidential personnel files of more than 120 accused clergy members. The files show Mahony and other archdiocese officials shielded accused priests and did not alert parishioners of the potential risks to their children.
Mahony declined to comment through a spokesman on Wednesday but has indicated in his blog and Twitter posts that he is going to Rome.
The plaintiffs in the Wisconsin claim have an uphill battle to make their case given the state's statute of limitations. The depositions are in part meant to determine when the cases first became known to church officials and victims.
Listecki had said the bankruptcy filing was needed to help compensate victims fairly while ensuring the archdiocese could still function. Milwaukee is the eighth diocese in the U.S. to seek bankruptcy protection over abuse claims. Advocates for victims have accused Milwaukee church officials of trying to shield its assets, in part by transferring millions of dollars several years ago into a cemetery trust fund and a parish fund.
The Archdiocese of Milwaukee recently said it was going broke. Its legal and other fees have reached nearly $9 million, according to court filings. But attorneys for victims say church officials are responsible for the prolonged legal battle.
LoCoco said that the abuse children had suffered was awful and that Dolan recognized this and took extensive steps to help the victims, including publicizing the names of accused clergy members so people would come forward and begin a healing process.
Peter Isely, Midwest director of the Survivors' Network, contended that Dolan "did a lot of creative maneuvering of priest sex offenders and creative accounting of church money" without holding accountable archdiocesan officials who failed to stop abusers.