In 2007, the Catholic Church transferred $57 million into a trust fund to provide "improved protection" for the church against court action.
Former Milwaukee Archbishop Timothy Dolan wrote the transfer was to protect the funds from any legal claim or liability, and the Vatican approved the transfer one month later.
Four years later, the Milwaukee Archdiocese filed a petition for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection. The judge overseeing the case ordered the documents revealing the transfer to be released. The documents say the church granted then-Archbishop Timothy Dolan permission to move the money from a cemetery fund into a trust.
Dolan's 2007 letter and the response from the Vatican were included in the documents, which were released as part of a deal with in the federal bankruptcy court between the archdiocese and clergy sex abuse victims suing the archdiocese for fraud.
An attorney representing the abuse victims said the money's intended use was to pay offenders to "quietly go away."
Victims said the archdiocese transferred priests involved in the sexual abuse cases to new Catholic churches without warning parishioners and covered up priests' crimes.