$12.7M Settlement Reached in Chicago Clergy Abuse
By Mike Robinson
August 12, 2008
[Note from BishopAccountability.org: This article contains references
to the deposition
of Cardinal Francis E. George. Below we have added links to the deposition
and its exhibits.]
CHICAGO — The Archdiocese of Chicago agreed Tuesday to pay almost
$12.7 million to 16 men and women who told of agonizing flashbacks, years
in therapy and recurring thoughts of suicide after sexual abuse as children
at the hands of priests.
"I apologize again today to the survivors and their families and
to the whole Catholic community," said Cardinal Francis George, who
also made public an extraordinary 307-page deposition that detailed the
church's tortured efforts and, at times, failures to confront the scandal.
George acknowledged that church leaders acted far too slowly in some cases.
"I think all of us failed in the end - I must take responsibility
for it," said George, the spiritual leader of Chicago's huge Catholic
archdiocese since 1997.
Attorneys said it was the first time such a deposition has been released
publicly as part of a settlement with victims. Another similar deposition
came out during a clergy abuse trial in California.
Fourteen cases settled Tuesday involve sexual abuse by 10 different priests.
Two involve an 11th priest, the Rev. Daniel J. McCormack, who pleaded
guilty last year to abusing five children and is serving a five-year prison
McCormack was arrested in August 2005 after a 10-year-old boy claimed
the priest had fondled him. Police said the boy's story was credible but
released McCormack after getting a call from an official of the archdiocese.
Jeff Anderson, an attorney for the victims, confronted George as part
of the grueling, daylong deposition with a memo saying the archdiocesan
official later advised McCormack not to talk to the police. [See Exhibit
118. It was during the arrest that Grace advised McCormack "not
to discuss the matter further with the police."]
"Is that something you approve of?" the attorney asked during
"No, that's not part of his responsibilities," George said.
One of the plaintiffs, Therese Albrecht, 48, of Steger, said that she
had been raped and sodomized from age 8 to 11 by the Rev. Joseph R. Bennett
of Chicago. She said she lived with the agony for decades before finally
reporting it and then felt that the archdiocese didn't believe her story.
Bennett was removed as a priest in 2006, about two years after Albrecht
came forward. Attorneys for the victims said church officials dragged
their feet in acting on complaints against Bennett. George said that the
investigation was not complete.
"Without counsel, the recommendation was premature," he said.
Attempts by The Associated Press to reach Bennett were unsuccessful. Three
listed phone numbers for a Joseph R. Bennett in Illinois had been disconnected
and no one picked up at a fourth listing.
Despite the settlement, Albrecht, now a Steger housewife, said "today
is not a happy, joyous day for me." She said she had spent years
in therapy and at one point contemplated suicide.
"I'm glad I survived this - I didn't think I would," she said.
During the deposition, George also answered tough questions concerning
his slowness to throw McCormack out of the ministry.
Two months after McCormack's arrest, a church review board urged George
to severe the priest from the ministry.
"They gave me that advice, yes," George said. "I wish that
I had followed it with all my heart." [See Deposition
But the cardinal said he did not follow that advice because he "thought
that they had not finished the investigation - they hadn't considered
all the evidence." [See Deposition
And as late as January 2006, McCormack was still teaching a math class,
coaching a boys basketball team and taking some boys to a restaurant.
128 and Deposition
p. 139.] He has since been removed from the ministry.
George acknowledged that while another priest with a history of sexual
abuse, the Rev. Norbert Maday, was serving a Wisconsin prison sentence,
the archdiocese was sending him a $200-a-month stipend with eventually
was raised to $300 a month. [See Exhibit
25 and Deposition
The cardinal, however, sharply denied that he had dragged his feet when
Wisconsin officials asked the church for documents to help them to take
civil court action to keep Maday in custody as a sexual predator after
his sentence was up.
"I wrote a letter, maybe two asking that the State of Wisconsin not
release him for the protection of children," George said during the
deposition. [See Deposition
p. 247.] He did acknowledge that he urged Maday to enter a prison
treatment program, saying it could lead to his early release but denied
he did so to get Maday out of prison sooner.
Anderson showed George a May 1999 letter [see Exhibit
26] to the Wisconsin parole commission from the vicar of priests saying
the archdiocese was ready to accept Maday back and take financial responsibility
for him. George said [see Deposition
p. 256] the letter suggested that the archdiocese was assuring the
officials that Maday would be living in circumstances that would keep
him away from children.
George agreed to the public apology and to apologize privately to each
of the victims as part of the settlement, said Anderson said, who also
praised the mediation process that led to the agreement. He said George
was active in reaching the settlement.
"He has demonstrated his commitment to healing these survivors,"
Barbara Blaine, president and founder of the Survivors Network of Those
Abused by Priests, sharply criticized the church but praising the victims
for insisting "that secret church documents about these pedophile
priests be made public."
"These courageous victims are the ones who deserve praise today,"
she said in a written statement. But she said the money would not "magically
restore the shattered trust, stolen childhoods and devastated psyches
of dozens of victims of predatory priests and complicit bishops."
The settlement brings to $65 million the total paid by the archdiocese
over three decades to settle about 250 claims, officials said. They said
mediation continues in about two dozen more cases.