Principal Speaks out on Priest Abuse Case
Woman Claims Archdiocese Is Blaming Her
December 19, 2006
Chicago -- An NBC5 exclusive report Tuesday looked at a new controversy over the Rev. Daniel McCormack, a Chicago Catholic priest accused of abusing five boys at a West Side church and school.
Now, the principal of that school is accusing the Archdiocese of Chicago of trying to make her the scapegoat for the scandal.
NBC5's Kim Vatis said that the controversy is brewing as McCormick awaits trial.
"They're still blaming other people for what they did not do. And I'm angry about it and I'm just fed up," said Barbara Westrick, principal of Our Lady of the Westside School at St. Agatha Catholic Church.
In a letter to the principal's file dated Oct. 6, the archdiocese's superintendent of schools points to a "serious administrative error" for not reporting a conversation Westrick had with the mother of a victim who went to the principal after McCormick's first arrest. Westrik only notified her boss, McCormick, of the parent's comments.
"I thought I should tell him that this woman was here," Westrick said. "She had gone to the police. She told me that she had called the archdiocese, and she said she was here because the police said they didn't have enough evidence to go on, and she wanted to know if I knew anything."
Westrick said that Cardinal Francis George knew about the case at that time and that the archdiocese even had McCormick monitored, but no one ever told Westrick of concerns leading to heightened awareness.
Now she's fuming, Vatis said, because the letter in her file states that she "continued to let him teach and coach without pursuing this matter further with any official at the archdiocese."
"For them to accuse me of not taking care of my kids; how dare they?" Westrick said. "Anyone that knows me knows that I would never put my kids in harm's way. Never."
Westrick's attorney told NBC5 that "the letter is ridiculous."
"They're trying to blame Barbara Westrick for not telling them something they already knew," said attorney Pat Walsh. He said that his client is actually the person who helped get the criminal case against McCormick moving after a student sobbed to her with more allegations, leading to charges against the priest in January 2006.
In a meeting with top archdiocese officials a month later, Westrick said the response to her concerns was, "Well, we just kind of messed up."
It was at that meeting that the principal learned more about the priest's history. She then met with the cardinal himself.
"To the cardinal I said, 'You're as good as the people you have around you.' They didn't make him do right. They didn't do right and it was all just coverup, coverup, coverup.
In response to Vatis' inquiries for her report, the chancellor of the Archdiocese said that although he can't discuss Westrick's case -- policy prohibits discussing personnel matters publicly -- one of the main criticisms of an independent audit was that certain personnel failed to go to the Department of Children and Family Services or the Archdiocese of Chicago with their information and concerns.
"Do you wish you'd called them now," Vatis asked Westrick.
"Absolutely," she replied. "If I knew what the cardinal knew? Of course."
"They've gotten away with it so long that future cases at other schools are going to hurt other children," she said. "That's why I'm here."
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