New York Cardinal Timothy Dolan has been formally questioned about clergy sex abuse in his former Archdiocese of Milwaukee, just days ahead of his departure for Rome and the conclave that will elect the next pope.
Cardinal Dolan, who led Milwaukee's Roman Catholics from 2002 to 2009, answered questions about his decision to publicise names of clergy members who had been accused of molesting children in cases that are mostly decades old, church lawyer Frank LoCoco said.
The Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, an independent group of abuse victims and their supporters, said it would press to make the transcript of his testimony public.
The deposition is part of a bankruptcy case filed in 2011 by Cardinal 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.
Cardinal Dolan had long awaited the chance to answer the lawyers' 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," Mr Zwilling said in a statement.
Cardinal Dolan, president of the US 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 US cardinals to be deposed this week in cases related to the abuse scandal, which erupted in 2002 in Boston, then spread through the United States to Europe and beyond.
Cardinal Roger Mahony, the retired Los Angeles archbishop, is scheduled to be questioned on 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 Cardinal 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 Cardinal Mahony and other archdiocese officials shielded accused priests and did not alert parishioners of the potential risks to their children. Cardinal Mahony declined to comment through a spokesman 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.
Archbishop 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 US 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.