Archdiocese Tells Policy on Priests, Sex Charges

By Michael Hirsley
Chicago Tribune
October 12, 1991

Officials of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago held a press briefing Friday to detail the steps it is taking to protect parishioners from sexually abusive priests.

They said sexual misconduct in general, and child abuse specifically, among archdiocesan priests was minimal.

But they refused to discuss numbers, such as the number of cases brought against priests, cases determined to be founded or unfounded, or priests asked to take leave pending resolution of charges against them.

"Our legal counsel has advised us not to play the numbers game," said Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Goedert, as archdiocesan attorney James Serritella nodded in agreement.

Goedert said policy for handling child abuse charges against priests calls for contacting the accuser, the accused and an archdiocesan advisory committee, and for reporting the matter to the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.

If the charges are considered serious, the priest is removed from his parish position. All of that should be done "within a couple of hours of receipt of the accusation," Goedert said.

St. Paul attorney Jeffrey Anderson, who has sued the archdiocese and one of its priests on child sexual abuse charges, said Friday, "If the archdiocese has a policy, its effect is imperceptible.

"They have had a serious problem for years that they have ignored and covered up, often successfully. I'm aware of cases involving at least five priests of the archdiocese."

Anderson filed a suit Aug. 14 in Cook County Circuit Court charging Rev. William Cloutier, former pastor at St. Damien Church in Oak Forest, with sexual abuse in 1979 of a 13-year-old boy.

Friday's briefing was not scheduled in response to any accusations or litigation, the chancery office said.

Rev. Patrick O'Malley chaired the briefing. He recently succeeded Goedert as vicar of priests, whose responsibilities include dealing with allegations against priests.


Additional material published Oct. 17, 1991:

Corrections and clarifications. In a story in North and South editions Oct. 12 about steps the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago takes in cases alleging sexual abuse by priests, Rev. William Cloutier, named in a civil suit on such charges, was incorrectly identified as the former pastor of St. Damien Church in Oak Forest. According to an archdiocesan spokeswoman, Cloutier was the associate pastor and Msgr. Martin J. O'Day was the pastor. The Tribune regrets the error.


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