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  Priest Steps down Amid Sexual Abuse Allegations

By Cathleen Falsani
Chicago Sun-Times [Burbank IL]
May 24, 2006

http://www.suntimes.com/output/news/cst-nws-abuse24.html

A Roman Catholic priest stepped down from his position at a Burbank parish over the weekend amid allegations of sexual misconduct with minors, a spokesman for the Archdiocese of Chicago said Tuesday.

The priest, who the Sun-Times isn't naming because he has not been charged with a crime and because archdiocesan officials say they have not yet finished their own investigation, removed himself from St. Albert the Great in Burbank at Cardinal Francis George's request late last week, said archdiocesan spokesman Jim Dwyer.

The allegations, involving more than one person, date to the 1980s, Dwyer said. The archdiocese learned of them about 10 days ago, he said.

The Burbank priest's case marks the first time since the Rev. Daniel McCormack was charged criminally in January that archdiocesan officials have implemented a new policy where a priest is effectively put on "desk duty" pending the outcome of an investigation.

Archdiocesan officials have said it is a way to remove a priest from the parish setting during an investigation without passing judgment on the accusations.

"[The priest] agreed to step down at the request of Cardinal George. They both wanted to act for the safety of children . . . and this is not a judgment," Dwyer said. "It's a preliminary step that's being taken while information is being gathered."

The priest is "residing in a private setting away from the parish," Dwyer said.

A letter informing parishioners of the priest's absence was read at a mass Sunday, Dwyer said.

'The cardinal is just backtracking'

Barbara Blaine, of the support group Survivors Network for those Abused by Priests, said she heard a recording of the announcement read at St. Albert and no mention of sexual misconduct was made. "The cardinal is just backtracking on his commitment to openness and transparency," she said.

George has been criticized for leaving McCormack in place while an investigation into alleged sexual misconduct was ongoing. McCormack has since been criminally charged with sexually abusing five boys. At least one of the boys allegedly was abused during the period between when George learned of the accusations against the young priest and when he finally removed him from ministry in January, after he was criminally charged.

Dwyer insisted that St. Albert parishioners were informed of the circumstances of the priest's departure. "The parish knows. The school knows. The faculty at the school knows," Dwyer said. "Nobody's doing anything secret."

cfalsani@suntimes.com

 
 

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