Audit Says Archdiocese Botched Abuse Inquiry
Outside Study Says Monitoring of Priests Was Deeply Flawed
By Manya A. Brachear firstname.lastname@example.org and Margaret Ramirez email@example.com
March 21, 2006
Outside auditors delivered a stinging critique of local Roman Catholic officials' handling of sex abuse allegations against Rev. Daniel McCormack, laying out multiple failures ranging from shoddy record-keeping and a profound lack of communication to inadequate monitoring policies that put children in danger.
One of the two reports released Monday evaluated the Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago's procedures for monitoring priests accused of abusing minors and found they amount to little more than an "honor system." Accused priests report on their own activities, monitors are not well-trained or informed, and there are no consequences for clergy who do not cooperate, it found.
McCormack was able to take three minors on a trip to Minnesota last Labor Day weekend while the priest assigned to watch him was away from the rectory, according to the other report, which dealt specifically with his case. Prosecutors charged McCormack this year with sexually abusing three boys while serving as a pastor at St. Agatha parish and as a teacher and coach at Our Lady of the Westside Catholic School.
"Archdiocesan policy on monitoring is inadequate and ineffective and does not accomplish the primary goals of protecting children and the integrity of the Church," consultant Terry Childers concluded in the monitoring report.
A pensive Cardinal Francis George did not contest the findings Monday and said he would see to it that reforms are made.
"For the many missteps in responding to the accusations of sexual abuse of minors by Father McCormack, I must accept responsibility and I do," George said. "For the tragedy of allowing children to be in the presence of a priest against whom a current accusation of sexual abuse had been made, I am most truly sorry."
On Monday the archdiocese posted on its Web site a list of 55 diocesan priests credibly accused of sexually abusing minors--a step long sought by victims' advocates. Only the names of priests accused posthumously remain classified, as they did not have a chance to respond to the allegations against them.
Old allegations found
In reviewing McCormack's case, the firm Defenbaugh and Associates uncovered allegations dating to his seminary days. The former vice rector of Niles College told auditors about three allegations of sexual misconduct involving two adults and a minor while McCormack was there, though the auditors found no record of it in his files.
The firm faulted church leaders for their lack of action on a misconduct allegation lodged against McCormack in 2003, saying archdiocese employees violated the Illinois Abused and Neglected Child Reporting Act by not investigating or reporting the allegation, made by the alleged victim's grandmother.
Defenbaugh concluded that the archdiocese had failed to comply with policies for protecting children drafted by U.S. bishops nearly four years ago, citing its failure to review seminary records before ordaining priests and the lack of training for parochial school staffers on what to do when children claim they have been abused.
Childers, a corrections consultant and Loyola University professor, looked at monitoring of accused priests who have been removed from ministry--a dozen of whom live at a Mundelein retreat center--and of those who remain during the course of an investigation, such as McCormack.
He concluded that the monitoring procedures relied too much on the priests themselves. Treatment is encouraged but not mandated. And if priests opt to submit to a psychological evaluation, the choice of evaluator is up to them.
Childers noted that responsibility is often placed on monitors who are kept in the dark about the priest's sexual history and receive little training in sex offender management, such as signals that a perpetrator might be grooming a potential victim.
Monitored priests enjoy unrestricted movement within the facility and in the community and have had access to computers and other sources of pornography. Master keys allow them access to common areas where residents and visitors, including children, gather, as well as rooms occupied by guests of the retreat center.
Childers also discovered that monitored priests often do not turn in their daily activity logs on time and face no penalty for falling behind. There is also no way to confirm the accuracy of the logs once they are turned in.
"The system allows the accused priest abuser to remain relatively anonymous," he wrote. "Sex offenders strive for and thrive on anonymity. It is anonymity that allows them to offend against many victims, and offend over very long periods of time. Effective monitoring crushes anonymity."
Defenbaugh & Associates said the most significant blunder in the McCormack matter was archdiocese officials' failure to communicate, both verbally and through documentation.
The audit also provided startling evidence about how much information Catholic officials had accumulated about McCormack, with the trail of abuse allegations leading back to 1988 when he was at Niles College.
The report singled out the allegation made in 2003 as crucial, saying it should have been investigated even though it came from a woman who did not give her name. She did leave a phone number. The allegation was not investigated until 28 months later, after McCormack's arrest.
"The September 2003 allegation was the watershed event which carried the archdiocese into a further slippery slope due to lack of responsive action," the report said.
Even after archdiocese officials assigned a monitor to McCormack, they failed to ensure his contact with children was restricted.
Officials at Our Lady of the Westside Catholic School were not informed that McCormack was being monitored and the priest assigned to monitor him was given only vague direction as to what activities to watch, the report said.
McCormack was only verbally advised to restrict his contact with minors, and there was no effort by the archdiocese to make sure he complied, it said.
"Father McCormack immediately and independently ignored and violated instructions to the point of continuing to coach the basketball team, to teach algebra, to allegedly begin to create an after-school program, and to take minors out of state on a shopping trip," said the report.
The priest monitoring McCormack was absent from the rectory not only during that trip on Labor Day weekend but also over the Christmas holiday, when an instance of sexual abuse reportedly occurred.
In both cases, although the priest alerted the archdiocese that he would be away for a period of time, no one stepped up to keep an eye on McCormack.
Many allegations made
Interviews by investigators revealed that numerous allegations or suspicious activities involving McCormack were brought to the attention of school officials from October 1999 through December 2005. None was brought to the attention of DCFS, the state's attorney's office or the archdiocese, the report said.
Chancellor Jimmy Lago said he has hired John Goad, former deputy director of the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services, to ensure that priests, teachers, coaches and volunteers are trained on how to respond to allegations of sexual misconduct. He also vowed to revamp the archdiocese's monitoring procedures and reprimand personnel who did not respond appropriately to initial allegations about McCormack.
MCCORMACK ALLEGATIONS GO BACK AS FAR AS 1992
The audit by Defenbaugh & Associates detailed numerous instances when church officials failed to act on abuse allegations against Rev. Daniel McCormack, including these:
Seminary officials learned in 1992 of sexual misconduct allegations against McCormack, according to the former vice rector of Niles College. The abuse allegedly occurred between 1988 and 1991 and involved one minor and two adult males. The vice rector noted that had these allegations come up today, McCormack likely never would have been ordained. Auditors could not locate any documentation of the allegations in McCormack's seminary files.
A nun who was principal of Holy Family School reported that a 4th grader said McCormack had told him to pull down his pants so he could measure the boy. The nun said the boy's mother met with McCormack and then asked the nun not to pursue the issue. When the nun wrote to the Office of Catholic Schools, she was allegedly told: "If the parents aren't pushing it, let it go." The allegation was not reported to the Department of Children and Family Services or local law enforcement as required by law.
A woman called the office of the vicar for priests to report an allegation of sexual abuse of a minor and left her phone number. The vicar's office called her back and said they could not guarantee action on her complaint because she wished to remain anonymous. No action was taken on the complaint until January 2006 when McCormack was arrested and charged. The anonymous complainant was the grandmother of the alleged victim, who was on the basketball team coached by McCormack. The audit said a person who leaves a phone number and requests a return call is not "anonymous."
Cardinal Francis George approved McCormack's appointment as head of a West Side deanery, although the office of the vicar for priests had possession of "derogatory information" about him. When the vicar general was advised by telephone of the information, he allowed the promotion to proceed without further investigation. George approved the appointment Aug. 29. A day later, police arrested McCormack in connection with an abuse allegation. The cardinal, who had returned from a vacation Aug. 28, was not told of the arrest until Sept. 2.
- - -
17 new priests listed
As of Monday, a list is available at www.archdiocese-chgo.org of the 55 diocesan priests facing substantiated allegations of sexual misconduct with minors since 1950. The list includes 17 names that have not been publicly reported since the clergy sex abuse crisis exploded in 2002:
- Alexander Sylvester Baranowski
Resigned from priesthood in 1975
- Rev. Leonard Adolph Bogdan
Retired from the diocese of Kalamazoo in 2000
- Rev. David Francis Braun
Died in 1997
- Rev. Francis Emil Dilla
Died in 2005
- Jesus Garza
Resigned in 2000
- Rev. John Edward Hefferan
Removed from public ministry in October 2003
- Michael Hogan
Resigned in 1993
- Robert Joseph McDonald
Resigned in 1990
- Peter John McNamara
Resigned in 1971
- Joseph Owens
Resigned in 1991
- John Rohrich
Resigned in 1975
- Russell Lawrence Romano
Resigned in 1991
- Rev. Joseph Savage
Died in 1974
- Henry Peter Swider
Resigned in 1974
- Rev. Albert Tanghal
Died in 2003
- Rev. Donald Francis Ulatowski
Died in 1999
- Michael Howard Weston
Resigned in 1993
Any original material on these pages is copyright © BishopAccountability.org 2004. Reproduce freely with attribution.