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Cardinal George Says Chicago Archdiocese Will Conform to National Policy

By Maura Kelly
Associated Press
June 17, 2002

The Archdiocese of Chicago will conform to new policies set last week by the nation's bishops for dealing with priests who have been identified as sexual abusers, Cardinal Francis George said Sunday.

However, the new policy is causing anguish at Holy Angels Church, one of Chicago's highest-profile parishes, where in 1995, a priest accused of abusing two boys was welcomed back by parishioners, who now insist the priest stay.

George said he will talk with seven priests who have been identified as sexual abusers in the past but who are still working in the archdiocese.

Those cases were handled during the tenure of the late Cardinal Joseph Bernardin. The seven priests are now in mandated monitoring programs that require them to sign a protocol stating they will never be alone with a child.

But under policies adopted last week by the U.S. Conference of Catholic Bishops, priests who abuse children will be removed from any type of ministry.

"It means that we have to give up the Chicago protocols, which I think were responsibly handled before I got here. We will do that for the sake of national uniformity in the way this is treated," George said after celebrating Mass at St. Giles Church.

The archdiocese will review the cases involving the seven priests individually in terms of the new policies, George said.

One of those priests is the Rev. John Calicott, George said. Calicott was removed from parish ministry at Holy Angels Catholic Church in Chicago about eight years ago after archdiocese officials determined he had engaged in sexual misconduct with two 15-year-old boys. Bernardin reinstated him about 18 months later because he said psychological evaluations found that Calicott posed no "significant risk to children" if he continued therapy.

Parishioners at Holy Angels now say they hope George allows Calicott to remain at their church.

"The parish is grieving based on what they've seen" of the new one-strike policy, said Tony Vales, 39. "But the ink is still wet on the bishops' report on what is to be done, and Cardinal George still has to meet with him."

Calicott also said he wants to stay at Holy Angels, formerly headed by the Rev. George Clements, whose decision to adopt three teen-age boys was the subject of a television movie.

"I am not a risk to children," he said. "I am concerned parishioners will rebel. People will see this as not being a forgiving church."

George said he spoke with Calicott on Saturday night.

"He is troubled. Of course, that's understandable. His whole future, his whole identity is at stake," George said.

The nation's bishops created the new policies while meeting last week in Dallas to determine how best to deal with a scandal involving priests who have been accused of abusing children. George did not directly address the scandal during his homily on Sunday. Still, he asked the media to either leave the church or stop taking notes.

"I really don't want a worship service to be the object of the kind of scrutiny that you have to bring to things," he said after the parish's 75th anniversary Mass.

George said he is satisfied with the outcome of the conference, despite believing more needs to be done when it comes to forgiveness and trust within the church.

 
 

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