SNAP Calls on Cardinal George to Resign
February 26, 2006
An advocacy group called for Cardinal Francis George to resign Saturday in the wake of reports that the top official of the Archdiocese of Chicago ignored for months a review board's advice to remove a priest accused of molesting three boys.
An archdiocese spokesman said George acknowledges the church-appointed review board gave the advice, but the recommendation was informal. The cardinal will not step down, the spokesman said Saturday.
The review board's recommendation to the archdiocese came in October, months before the January arrest of the Rev. Daniel McCormack and his removal from St. Agatha Church on Chicago's West Side, said Diane Jackson, a spokeswoman for the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services.
Saturday's call for George's resignation was the first time the national Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests has called for a cardinal or a bishop to step down, said SNAP president Barbara Blaine.
"The national leadership of SNAP has never taken this extreme position before and obviously we don't do it lightly," Blaine said. "Cardinal George has been secretive, deceptive and irresponsible."
The state child welfare agency learned of the review board's recommendation during its own investigation into allegations against McCormack, Jackson said. The agency also learned that McCormack had been sent to a facility for a psychological assessment last year, Jackson said.
"What we're saying is, they had information about the allegation," Jackson said.
Archdiocese spokesman Jim Dwyer said that George felt at the time of the review board's advice that he could not remove McCormack without firsthand information.
"Now we have the protocol in place to be more aggressive in possibly removing priests earlier in the process when we see there's an issue of safety," Dwyer said. "The cardinal has said we're going to do things differently in the future, but he's not going to step down."
Dwyer declined to comment on whether the archdiocese sent McCormack for a psychological assessment, citing laws protecting the confidentiality of an individual's health information.
Earlier this week, the archdiocese accused the state child welfare investigators of failing to promptly notify the church of credible evidence against McCormack.
The nine-member review board is an independent, confidential panel appointed by George to advise the archdiocese on matters "regarding the safety of children and the fitness for ministry of those accused," according to the archdiocese's Web site.
It is made up of two priests, one deacon and six lay people not employed by the archdiocese. The lay members include a parish council member, a parent of a victim of child sexual abuse by a cleric, a psychiatrist, a psychologist, a social worker and an attorney.
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