|Failure to Report Sex Abuse in Chicago Archdiocese Described
Bishop's Deposition Details Attempts to Keep Cases Secret
By Kristen Mack
July 22, 2009
The archdiocese of Chicago has agreed to pay $3.9 million to settle six sexual abuse cases and on Tuesday released a bishop's deposition that detailed the church's failure to report the crimes and attempts to keep them secret.
The 180-page deposition provides a rare glimpse of "how clerical culture operated in the past," said Jeffrey R. Anderson, an attorney for the victims. Retired Auxiliary Bishop Raymond Goedert, the second-highest-ranking bishop in the Chicago archdiocese, testified that most of the priests he confronted with sexual abuse charges admitted them.
"I knew the civil law considered it a crime," Goedert said in his deposition, adding that he felt church law required him to treat matters confidentially. "I simply would not talk about [the cases] to anyone except those who had a right to know because of their position in the diocese."
Goedert's deposition demonstrates the "energy spent on keeping the scandal contained," said Marc Pearlman, another attorney for the victims.
"What emerges here is that the interests of the institution come first, then the man, the perpetrator of crime," Pearlman said. "And somewhere in the distance [are] the victims of the crime. Their priorities are in the wrong order."
The six cases involve sexual abuse by four priests between 1970 and 1986. Names of the victims were not released to protect their identities.
Two of the priests involved in the settlements are deceased. The others have been out of the ministry for almost two decades. The cases were settled through mediation, a key element of which includes public disclosure of information.
"We believe that negotiation and mediation are the best, most compassionate ways to resolve these cases, as it spares the survivors and their families the burdens and stresses of an extended legal process," said Chancellor Jimmy Lago of the archdiocese of Chicago.
Anderson said his clients, who have just started reading Goedert's testimony, have had a mixed reaction.
"They take comfort in exposing past crimes, yet it causes anxiety, anger and distress" to learn that clerical hierarchy kept the cases under wraps, he said.
The deposition shows how "deeply ingrained secrecy" is in this archdiocese, Barbara Dorris, the outreach director of the Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests, said in a statement.
"That confidentiality allowed the archdiocese to move serial predators from parish to parish without congregations' knowledge about child-abuse allegations," she said.
Anderson did, however, note the increased participation of the archdiocese. "Things are changing," he said. "Yet they are not where they should be."
Under the terms of the mediation, other information and files will be made public at a later date.
The Roman Catholic Archdiocese of Chicago paid more than $15.8 million in legal settlements related to sexual abuse last year, amounting to $80.2 million in claims from June 2001 to June 2008.
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