Lawsuit seeks to unveil 'conspiracy' of protecting abusive priests
By Allison Hantschel
[Note: This article was scanned by BishopAccountability.org from a hardcopy in our files and was checked against the original.]
Lawyers for priest sex abuse victims Thursday accused the Archdiocese of Chicago of participating in an "ongoing, criminal conspiracy" to protect molester priests.
"We are here to invite Cardinal (Francis) George and the Archdiocese of Chicago to be part of the solution instead of being the problem," said attorney Jeff Anderson, who filed a lawsuit Thursday against the Chicago Roman Catholic church and a former South Side priest.
"This lawsuit is the beginning of a process," said Anderson, who has filed hundreds of civil lawsuits against church officials across the country. "This is the first step."
Vincent McCaffrey, who left the priesthood in 1993 and pleaded guilty two weeks ago to child porn charges, is accused in the lawsuit of repeatedly molesting a man identified as John E. Doe.
McCaffrey abused Doe at least 25 times in 1984 and 1985, beginning when Doe was 11 years old and McCaffrey was associate pastor at St. Joseph the Worker church in northwest suburban Wheeling, according to Anderson. Doe, who grew up in Wheeling, is now a 31-year-old man and lives in California.
At St. Victor Church in Calumet City, McCaffrey's first assignment following his 1978 ordination, the priest was confronted with accusations of abuse, according to the lawsuit.
In 1982, the Rev. Leo Mahon, then pastor of St. Victor, informed McCaffrey that two parish boys said he abused them. McCaffrey admitted the abuse, and Mahon asked him to leave the parish, according to the lawsuit.
Archdiocese officials then assigned McCaffrey to St. Joseph the Worker, and in 1985 he was reassigned to St. Josaphat on Chicago's North Side, where he abused numerous boys, according to Anderson.
McCaffrey abused boys in each of the parishes in which he worked and was transferred by the Archdiocese four times before he left the priesthood, according to the lawsuit, which accuses the Archdiocese of fraud and intentional infliction of emotional distress.
In 1991, McCaffrey was removed from ministry. He resigned two years later. McCaffrey may have had as many as 100 victims, Anderson said.
Federal prosecutors in June charged McCaffrey with possessing child pornography. He pleaded guilty in September.
Information concerning McCaffrey when he was a priest is currently under court seal. Much of it could be discussed during a scheduled Dec. 9 sentencing hearing, and Anderson said his client is willing to testify in order to extend McCaffrey's sentence.
The former priest faces as much as 20 years in federal prison and fines up to $500,000.
Archdiocese of Chicago spokesman Jim Dwyer said church officials were aware abuse cases were not handled perfectly in the past. Since 1992, an archdiocesan review board has overseen abuse cases, but before that they were left up to the bishop's discretion.
"We've always acknowledged that one of the reasons the review board was created was that it was clear we weren't adequately addressing these things," Dwyer said. "Vincent McCaffrey is not a priest. He has not been a priest for a long time."
Dwyer said the archdiocese had not yet been served with the lawsuit and would respond to its specifics in court. He denied the existence of any conspiracy.
"How could we be protecting him? He isn't even a priest anymore," Dwyer said, referring to McCaffrey. "The logic of that escapes me."
Though the statute of limitations on civil lawsuits has lapsed, Anderson said he believed Archdiocese of Chicago officials had "conspired" to keep McCaffrey and other priests in active ministry despite abuse accusations, and that this conspiracy continued today.
In 1991, according to the lawsuit, John Doe met with the pastor of St. Joseph the Worker, the Rev. James O'Malley, at the Ann Sathers restaurant on Belmont Avenue. O'Malley told Doe he knew Doe had been abused by McCaffrey and advised Doe to remain silent, Anderson said.
"As he left the restaurant, the last thing O'Malley said to him was 'Remember what I told you, and that is keep quiet,' and he has," Anderson said. "He was threatened by that pastor. We want every survivor to know they don't have to keep quiet the way he did."
The Archdiocese of Chicago publicly removed 14 of its more than 2,000 priests since the Roman Catholic priest sexual abuse scandal began in January. This is the first lawsuit to hit the archdiocese over the scandal.
The neighboring Diocese of Joliet has removed 10 priests and now faces
two civil lawsuits over its priests' behavior. Another is expected to
be filed early next week.
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