Calls Milwaukee Archbishop’s Legislative Homily a “Conflict of Interest”

Freedom From Religion Foundation Questions Ethics, Timing of Archbishop’s Address to Wisconsin Assembly

(MADISON, WI) The Freedom From Religion Foundation has asked the Wisconsin State Ethics Board to investigate Assembly Speaker John Gard’s “ill-advised” invitation to Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan to open the Assembly session yesterday.

Annie Laurie Gaylor of the Foundation noted the “powerful political presence” of the Wisconsin Catholic Conference, which was praised by Dolan in his homily. The Catholc lobbying group openly opposes proposed legislation to permit victims of sexually abusive clergy to sue religious institutions in Wisconsin. The proposals would override two decisions by the Catholic-dominated State Supreme Court which barred civil suits by victims against churches for a decade.

“The Archbishop is under increasing scrutiny over the Catholic Church’s institutional cover-up of pedophile priests,” Gaylor wrote Gard in a letter protesting his decision to “honor” Dolan by being the first speaker to open the session.

She referred to reports as recent as this Sunday that Dolan sent a letter of support to a St. Louis judge this year asking for leniency for a priest convicted of molesting a very young boy. This month victims’ rights groups have condemned Dolan for withdrawing his offer to announce names of pedophile priests from his archdiocese. Gaylor said his self-avowed sensitivity to “the young, the defenseless” rang a little hollow.

“The highly visible presence of so many priests, with Dolan even addressing his speech to ‘Bishop Bullock’ as well as the Assembly, amounted to a high profile advertisement for the power of the Catholic Church,” Gaylor added.

Dolan made veiled references to the Church’s vociferous opposition to birth control and abortion (“respect life, from womb to tomb”) and humane stem-cell research. He also promoted the “collaboration between civic and religious leaders,” which the Foundation considered encouragement to the Assembly to pass “faith-based initiatives.”

Gaylor called it a “conflict of interest” to invite Dolan to address the Assembly when the Catholic Church has such vested interests over pending legislation.

“We’d like to see Gard provide some much-needed balance by inviting such speakers as a victim of a pedophile priest, and a pro-choice representative,” Gaylor said.

Freedom From Religion Foundation

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