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Ex-Priest Preyed on Teen Boys, Court Told
5 victims relate abuse to boost bid for long sentence

By Matt O'Connor
Chicago Tribune
December 10, 2002

Traveling from as far as California and Florida, five men confronted a former Roman Catholic priest Monday in a federal courtroom, testifying he sexually molested them when they were young boys one to two decades ago at four different Chicago-area parishes.

The victims, testifying by their first names only to protect their identities, said Vincent McCaffrey often targeted children whose parents were divorced, befriended both the boys and their parents to gain their trust and then molested the boys as they slept overnight in the church rectory.

Testimony revealed for the first time that the Chicago archdiocese learned of McCaffrey's sexual misconduct as early as 1980 but returned him to parish duties after he had undergone in-patient treatment.

The archdiocese has previously said its records indicated it first learned of the allegations of sexual wrongdoing against McCaffrey in 1987. He was removed from parish duties in 1991 due to reforms instituted by Cardinal Joseph Bernardin.

McCaffrey, testifying Monday at his own sentencing hearing in U.S. District Court in downtown Chicago, admitted he resumed molesting underage boys within months of his release from the sexual-addiction treatment center in 1980. He said he had entered the center at the direction of the archdiocese.

McCaffrey admitted molesting at least 12 to 14 boys during his years as a priest, but under cross-examination by Assistant U.S. Atty. T. Markus Funk, he acknowledged he really didn't know how many he victimized because there were so many.

"I deeply regret my harm and my hurt to everyone," said McCaffrey, 50, while addressing the victims in the courtroom. "I promise you my prayers every day of my life for the rest of my life."

After nearly a full day of testimony, U.S. District Judge John Darrah postponed sentencing until Jan. 6 for McCaffrey, who pleaded guilty in September to possessing thousands of images of child pornography.

The government is seeking as much as 20 years in prison for the former priest. Under federal sentencing laws, prosecutors can bring out related criminal conduct. McCaffrey was never charged in the molestation cases. If the judge disregards the molestation allegations, McCaffrey could be sentenced to far less than 10 years in prison.

In a court filing last week, prosecutors alleged that McCaffrey molested at least 16 boys on hundreds of occasions.

The five victims who testified, now in their 30s and 40s, said the sexual abuse took place from the late 1970s, before McCaffrey had been ordained, until 1990.

The molestations occurred while McCaffrey was assigned at Our Lady Help of Christians on Chicago's West Side, Our Lady of Loretto in Hometown, St. Victor in Calumet City and St. Joseph the Worker in Wheeling, they testified.

All of them said the abuse began when they were between 12 and 14. Two said they were molested once each and one recalled three separate incidents. Another victim, Eddie of Los Angeles, said he was molested 20 to 25 times over two years.

The final victim, Kevin, a construction worker whose family was so close to McCaffrey they called him "Uncle Vince," estimated he was molested more than 200 times over 5 to 6 years.

All five said the sexual abuse had scarred their faith and often severely damaged their trust in people.

"The way I was raised, they (priests) were next to God," said Bruce, 39, who now resides in Wisconsin.

Bruce, whose parents were divorced, said he looked up to McCaffrey as a big brother.

When he was in 8th grade, Bruce said he awakened while staying overnight in the rectory at Our Lady Help of Christians to find McCaffrey fondling him.

Bruce said he moved his body against the wall to try to stop the abuse, but McCaffrey used physical force to continue fondling him. Bruce said McCaffrey finally stopped when he pulled close to the wall again.

For someone of McCaffrey's stature to molest him "was beyond my belief," said Bruce..

Bruce expressed regret he never came forward at the time to report McCaffrey's misconduct, saying, "I feel that every victim who came after me I'm somewhat responsible for."

In testifying, the victims showed surprisingly little emotion, except for simmering anger toward McCaffrey, who has been in custody since his arrest in June and was dressed in court in an orange prison jumpsuit.

John, 40, who now lives in Tampa, said McCaffrey got him drunk at a bar when he was 13 or 14 and molested him during the middle of the night.

John said McCaffrey started a youth program at St. Victor and taught sex education classes.

John said McCaffrey was physically threatening, once holding him under water in a hot tub and another time almost purposely running him over in a car.

Eddie, now a 31-year-old bartender, said McCaffrey convinced his mother to let him be an altar boy and promised to pick him up for church services.

One molestation occurred about one hour after he received Holy Communion from McCaffrey, Eddie recalled.

After someone told him of seeing McCaffrey in the Chicago area this year, Eddie said he got "a paralyzing feel" for the first time "since he tried to touch me." He left work early and cried for half an hour in his car.

"I've struggled with my faith all this time," he said.Kevin, the victim who estimated he had been molested more than 200 times, said the physical abuse finally ended after he graduated from high school in 1990. But the mental agony has never stopped, he said.

"It's hard to put in words," said Kevin, 30, of Illinois. "My life has been destroyed. It feels like it's dead. There's really no purpose to live. The only time I feel alive is when I'm angry."

McCaffrey testified that in 1980, two years after he was ordained, he was admitted to Resurrection Hospital in Chicago to treat his sexual disorder and then transferred to Guest House, which he described as a psychiatric treatment facility for alcoholic clergy located in Rochester, Minn., for three months.

But he was returned to parish duties in 1980, resumed the molestations within months and went without any psychiatric treatment for another 7 years, McCaffrey said.

In 1987, he spent 6 months in a sexual treatment facility in Maryland, where he was prescribed a drug that lowered his testosterone level and sex drive.

He was again assigned to a parish, but McCaffrey said, "I was not to work with adolescents."

Yet, by McCaffrey's own admission, the sexual abuses didn't stop until 1989.

Jim Dwyer, the archdiocese spokesman, conceded Monday the church's policies proved woefully inadequate until Cardinal Bernardin formed a commission on clerical misconduct with minors in 1991. Within a month, McCaffrey and several other priests had been removed from parish duties. He resigned in 1993.

"There is realization that not enough was done," Dwyer said. "No matter what we do, nothing will make up for the damage done to the victims."

 
 

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