Wis. archdiocese no longer paying priests to leave

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MILWAUKEE (AP) -- A top official with the Archdiocese of Milwaukee says it has ended the practice of paying priests who voluntarily leave the priesthood.

Payments had gone to some priests accused of sexual abuse, and in a letter sent Thursday to church members, the archbishop's chief of staff, Jerry Topczewski (top-CHES'-kee), responded to allegations from an abuse victims' group that the payments were a "payoff."

He says it made sense at the height of the clergy sex abuse scandal to "move these men out of the priesthood as quickly as possible" and the money helped the men with the transition. Some priests received $20,000.

But Topczewski says the archdiocese is no longer providing payments.

Archdiocese spokeswoman Julie Wolf says the last payments were made to nine priests in 2010.