|Boy Abused by Rev. McCormack Settles for $1.6 Million
McCormack Victim to Get $1.6 Million from Archdiocese
By Manya A. Brachear
September 21, 2007
A 15-year-old West Side boy and his family will receive $1.65 million from the Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago for sexual abuse the boy suffered at the hands of a pastor, a lawyer for the victim and his family said Thursday.
The settlement marks the first lawsuit to be resolved since Rev. Daniel McCormack pleaded guilty in July to fondling five boys ages 8 to 12 in housing at St. Agatha Roman Catholic Church.
At least two other suits against McCormack and the archdiocese are pending.
Some victims were members of the basketball team McCormack coached at nearby Our Lady of the Westside School; others were friends of boys who attended the school, where he taught algebra.
Victims' advocates have urged lawyers not to accept settlements to civil lawsuits before trial in hopes that depositions and court proceedings would reveal a church conspiracy to protect McCormack before he was criminally charged early last year. But Steve Dicker, the family's attorney, said it was important for his client to settle in order to pay for costly therapy, put the abuse behind him and begin to heal.
"The victim and his family are relieved that as a result of the settlement the child will not have to testify in either the criminal or civil proceedings," he said.
Barbara Blaine, president of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, acknowledged that the settlement was best for the boy.
"The victim has to be in charge of the healing process," she said.
According to the lawsuit, McCormack engaged in "continuous forced sexual abuse" of the boy for four years. The abuse ended in January 2005 only after poor grades kept the student from playing on the basketball team, Dicker said. The abuse came to light when a girl complained to the school's principal that she had been touched inappropriately by the boy. Church officials said that when the boy was called to the principal's office, he made a comment about McCormack that prompted school officials to call police.
Two audits by outside consultants hired by the archdiocese have found a trail of abuse allegations dating to McCormack's seminary days in 1988, all of which the archdiocese failed to investigate properly. The audits also found that although a priest had been assigned to monitor McCormack at St. Agatha, McCormack continued to have contact with children.
In addition to the five victims fondled by McCormack, the Illinois Department of Children and Family Services has found credible evidence to support allegations he abused six other children. But prosecutors must prove guilt beyond a reasonable doubt, a higher legal standard.
McCormack pleaded guilty to five felony counts of aggravated criminal sexual abuse in July and was sentenced to 5 years in prison.
Cardinal Francis George has said he wants all cases settled so families do not suffer through court proceedings.
In a statement Thursday, Archdiocese Chancellor Jimmy Lago said, "Completion of the criminal proceedings against Father McCormack opened the way for this settlement and permitted us to work out a just and compassionate resolution of the claim."
Marc Pearlman, an attorney representing two other victims of McCormack in civil suits against the archdiocese, said his clients do not intend to settle until sufficient information comes to light.
"If we can help it, we're not going to settle a case before we depose the cardinal," he said.
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