Archdiocese Checks Religious-Order Priests

Chicago Sun Times [Chicago IL]
July 28, 2003

Officials of the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago have reviewed files of more than 900 religious-order priests now serving in Cook and Lake counties, and say they have found none with a record of sexually abusing children.

The review of files kept by the archdiocese on all 918 religious-order priests with "faculties," or permission, to serve in the Chicago archdiocese, was conducted in March and April, Jim Dwyer, a spokesman for Cardinal Francis George, said Sunday.

Archdiocesan officials examined each priest's file and made sure every priest had a letter from his superior in the religious order certifying that the priest had no allegation of sexual misconduct with a minor against him, Dwyer said.

The review of religious-order priests was conducted after the Chicago archdiocese released findings in February of a 10-year review of clergy sexual misconduct involving diocesan priests. That review found 55 cases of clergy sexual misconduct with minors involving 36 priests had been deemed "credible" by the archdiocese since 1993.

But the 10-year review did not include information about religious-order priests. According to statistics in the 2003 archdiocesan directory, there are 918 religious-order priests and 874 diocesan priests serving in the Chicago archdiocese.

Religious-order priests--unlike diocesan priests, who report directly to their bishop--answer to the superior of their order.

Since April 2002, at least four civil lawsuits have been filed in Cook County by alleged victims who say they were abused by religious-order priests serving in the Chicago archdiocese. Most of the alleged abuse in those lawsuits dates to the 1980s.

Dwyer and Jimmy Lago, chancellor of the Chicago archdiocese, revealed that the review of religious-order priests had been completed in response to allegations made by a group of protesters outside Chicago's Holy Name Cathedral Sunday morning.

Members of the Coalition of Concerned Catholics and several advocacy groups for victims of clergy sexual abuse handed out green flyers that said half of the priests serving in the Chicago archdiocese had not been reviewed by George for any history of sexual abuse.

"It is simply untrue," Lago said in a one-page statement that was taped to the doors of the cathedral Sunday morning, a few feet from the sidewalk where protesters carried pickets and prayed aloud for "healing in the church."

"One must wonder what the motivation of this group truly is, and why members would continue to disseminate inaccurate information about the archdiocese," he said.

In a July 17 e-mail message sent to members of the Coalition for Concerned Catholics, Lago said archdiocesan officials "have reviewed all religious order priest files for any allegation of sexual misconduct."

Tom Hoffman, a coalition member and a former Jesuit priest, said Lago's e-mail message was unclear as to whether a "thorough" review had been completed. Protesters hoped the archdiocese would review not only its own files on religious-order priests, but personnel files kept by the orders.

"If it's been done, that would be great," Hoffman said. "But it's news to us."


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