Archdiocese Identifying Accused Priests Via Web Site
By Cathleen Falsani
Chicago Sun-Times [Chicago IL]
March 13, 2004
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago launched a Web site Friday where people can inquire whether a priest has been accused of sexual misconduct with children.
An online form requesting information about any diocesan priest -- past or present -- may be submitted through the archdiocese's Web site, www.archdiocese-chgo.org, and archdiocesan officials say they will respond, in writing, within two weeks.
The online inquiry, which is available in English, Spanish and Polish, requires the person seeking information to provide their name and address. The form also asks for a reason for the inquiry, but does not require one to be given as a condition of processing the request.
The Web-based inquiry process differs greatly from what archdiocesan Chancellor Jimmy Lago said last fall church officials were hoping to provide. At a press conference last September, Lago said he thought the archdiocese would have an online searchable database much like that of the state's Attorney Registration and Disciplinary Commission.
The ARDC Web site allows people to search for an attorney by name and immediately provides information about whether they are currently licensed to practice law, when they were licensed and whether the lawyer has a record of being disciplined publicly.
"That's what Jimmy [Lago] had hoped ideally one of the options we would provide would be, but we decided not to do that," Jim Dwyer, spokesman for the archdiocese, said Friday.
"We feel we have a moral responsibility to know who the information is going to. We know some people aren't going to accept that, but this is what we felt we need to do," Dwyer said. "We are trying to avoid people on a lark trying to create a list. We're interested in helping people with serious inquiries."
How will the archdiocese be able to tell what's serious and what's a lark? Archdiocesan officials will review the requests and make a decision, Dwyer said.
"It's a game," said an angry Barbara Blaine, founder of the victims' advocacy group Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests. "This is extremely disappointing. This is not what we were led to believe was going to happen. It's just one more time the archdiocese made a promise and didn't keep it."
Cardinal Francis George, archbishop of Chicago, continues to refuse to release a complete list of the 55 priests the archdiocese says have had credible allegations of abuse made against them since 1950. Dwyer said releasing such a list essentially would be implying that the priests are guilty of crimes for which most of them have never been tried, either in a civil court or by the church.
"It seems to me this [Web site] is more of an effort for the archdiocese to obtain information rather than to disclose information," Blaine said. "It's a public relations stunt to make themselves look good when in fact they are providing little or nothing."
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