News & Politics

Catholic Archdiocese Secretly Used Cemetery Funds to Pay Off Sex Abuse Cases

Roger Mahony, Archdiocese of Los Angeles, needed $660 million stemming from clergy sex abuse lawsuits.

The Archdiocese of Los Angeles needed to come up with money to pay a $660 million settlement stemming from clergy sex abuse lawsuits. And so the Archdiocese, Roger Mahony, turned to a cemetery maintenance fund for the money.

The Los Angeles Times reports that Mahony “quietly appropriated $115 million from a cemetery maintenance fund and used it to help pay a landmark settlement with molestation victims. The church did not inform relatives of the deceased that it had taken the money, which amounted to 88% of the fund.” The money for the funds for the cemetery is garnered by families of dead Catholics who contribute to an account used for the care of graves.

While there was nothing illegal about the move, and it was approved by the Vatican, Mahony still felt he had to hide how he was paying for the sex abuse settlement. But the disclosure that funds from cemetery maintenance were used to pay out claims related to the Catholic Church’s sex abuse scandal has angered victims.

Mary Dispenza received a 2006 settlement from the Archdiocese because she says she was molested. She criticized how the Archdiocese is paying the cost of the settlement. “I think it's very deceptive. And I think in a way they took it from people who had no voice: the dead. They can't react, they can't respond.”

Mahony agreed to the sex abuse settlement because he knew if the case dragged on longer, he could have faced paying over $1 billion. Other bishops had closed schools or filed for bankruptcy, which angered Catholics. So Mahony turned to the cemetery fund--which is now angering Catholics.

Alex Kane is former World editor at AlterNet. His work has appeared in Mondoweiss, Salon, VICE, the Los Angeles Review of Books and more. Follow him on Twitter @alexbkane.

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