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Church Paid Off Chicago Priest
Chicago Catholic archdiocese reached $200,000 settlement after he was removed over earlier sex misconduct charges

By Steve Warmbir and Cathleen Falsani
Chicago Sun-Times
June 18, 2002

The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago agreed to pay a priest dogged by allegations of sexually abusing boys a $200,000-plus settlement as he left the church, according to court records and interviews.

The contract came to light during a search last week of the Chicago condominium of former priest Vincent McCaffrey as investigators looked for child pornography in his home. They found thousands of images of kiddie porn, and McCaffrey, 49, was ordered held without bond on Monday, authorities said.

A spokeswoman for the archdiocese said it had "no knowledge" of the document prosecutors referred to in court papers, but acknowledged that it paid McCaffrey, who left the church in 1993, "somewhat less" than $100,000 to help him make the change to life outside the priesthood.

"When McCaffrey resigned in 1993 from the priesthood, there was an agreement with the archdiocese and money was provided to help him make the transition to lay life and so also he would continue to get counseling," archdiocese spokeswoman Dianne Dunagan said.

Paying money to help men leaving the priesthood is common, Dunagan said, and was not done to speed McCaffrey's resignation. She could not explain the specific factors behind the decision to pay McCaffrey.

"All I can say is that it is not unusual for the archdiocese to help a priest when he is leaving the priesthood," Dunagan said.

David Clohessy, the head of an advocacy group for victims of abusive priests, said the payment troubled him.

"I certainly wish that kind of generosity would extend to victims," said Clohessy, national director of the Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, based in Chicago.

Prosecutors describe the contract as being signed by representatives of the Archdiocese of Chicago, McCaffrey and McCaffrey's attorney.

It said the document showed he was guaranteed a salary of $40,000 a year for about five years following his departure "as well as moneys for the funding of continuing education." The contract also has a confidentiality agreement in it, authorities said.

McCaffrey has received counseling for years for his sexual attraction to boys, authorities said. Assistant U.S. Attorney T. Markus Funk called McCaffrey a flight risk and a danger to the community and himself. McCaffrey had recently been in the hospital because he felt suicidal after investigators questioned him, authorities said.

He told investigators that he used child pornography "as a release" so he wouldn't have sex with boys, court documents show.

Investigators found thousands of images on McCaffrey's Gateway computer as well as three CD-ROMs with kiddie porn and printed-out pages stuffed under his mattress, authorities said.

McCaffrey told investigators that he hadn't had contact with a minor boy for 15 years.

He wouldn't say what happened before, and investigators are focusing not only on that time period but what he has done recently.

Most recently, McCaffrey has sold insurance for State Farm and has also worked at Crate and Barrel in Skokie and at a gas station in Winnetka, his lawyer said.

The archdiocese spokeswoman said there were several allegations against McCaffrey involving minors in the early 1980s, but she could provide no details.

Letters seized at McCaffrey's condominium also show the archdiocese was aware of his problem.

A 1987 letter to McCaffrey signed by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin refers to an unnamed alleged victim of McCaffrey's and acknowledges McCaffrey's active return to his priestly duties, apparently after receiving counseling, authorities said.

In late 1991, McCaffrey was put on administrative leave when he was associate pastor at Our Lady of Good Counsel, 3528 S. Hermitage, in the McKinley Park neighborhood.

The move came as a result of a recommendation by a commission set up by Bernardin to examine the church's policies regarding abusive priests.

News reports at the time of his removal from Our Lady of Good Counsel said that the pastor of the church at the time knew of McCaffrey's problem when he arrived in 1989 but was assured by a therapist that McCaffrey could serve.

In 1992, another letter from the archdiocese names an alleged victim of McCaffrey's, authorities said.

The allegations against McCaffrey were reported to authorities that same year, an archdiocese spokeswoman said, as part of a widespread effort to report such cases to law enforcement.

A spokeswoman for the Cook County state's attorney's office could not immediately say late Monday whether the office had received any referrals.

McCaffrey, though, has never been charged with a felony in Cook County.

McCaffrey was ordained in 1978 and was assigned to work at Our Lady Help of Christians, 832 N. Leclaire; St. Victor in Calumet City; St. Joseph the Worker in Wheeling; St. Josaphat, at 2311 N. Southport, and Our Lady of Good Counsel, an archdiocese spokeswoman said.

His most recent problems started when police in New Zealand shut down a child-porn Web site in Auckland in December.

Police examined the financial records of the man running the Web site and found McCaffrey's name, date of birth and e-mail address on the paid subscriber's list, documents show.

McCaffrey, who allegedly likes boys ages 8 to 16, used a personal credit card to pay for access to the site, authorities said.

That information found in New Zealand was passed along to U.S. Customs, whose officials interviewed McCaffrey and searched his home.

 
 

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