Group Rejects Cardinal’s Letter on Sex Abuse
By Dermot Connolly
SW News Herald
January 17, 2014
A two-page letter from Cardinal Francis George entitled "Accountability and Transparency” regarding the archdiocese’s policy regarding priests accused or convicted of child sexual abuse in recent decades was included in Sunday bulletins at parishes across the archdiocese last weekend.
Representatives of groups such as SNAP (Survivors Network of those Abused by Priests) who saw the letter maintain that the cardinal is
still withholding information, but according to many local pastors, the letter elicited little reaction from parishioners.
“I haven’t gotten any feedback. People have talked about it, but not in a negative way,” said the Rev. John Noga, pastor of St. Daniel the Prophet Church, 5330 S. Nashville Ave., Chicago.
“I guess people see it as somewhat old news. People are aware that the archdiocese has put in place safeguards to prevent abuse from happening in the future,” said Noga.
“Quite honestly, more people seem to be concerned with the announcement (made last week) that six Catholic elementary schools will have to close this year,” said the Rev. Michael J. Furlan, pastor of St. Germaine Church, 9735 S. Kolin Ave., Oak Lawn.
While no local schools are on the list of closings, Furlan noted that the planned closure of St. Bernadette School in Evergreen Park and even St. Christopher in Midlothian are likely to have an effect on enrollment at St. Germaine School.
George says in the two-page letter that documents relating to the
“sexual misconduct” of 30 priests from the Archdiocese will be released as part of settlement agreements over the past years.
SNAP representatives have argued that while a list of about 65 priests with substantiated abuse allegations is available on the Archdiocese Web site, the list only includes diocesan priests, and not those who belong to religious orders.
They also note that the Philadelphia Archdiocese includes more information, including photos, on its Web site.
SNAP has said a more complete list of 121 Chicago “predator priests” compiled through court documents, is available at
The Archdiocese of Chicago posted the letter, and a follow-up statement on its Web site, www.archchicago.org, explaining that the documents relating to 30 cases over the past 50 years were being released Wednesday, Jan. 15 to plaintiffs’ attorney Jeffrey Anderson.
Furlan suggested that the reason priests in religious orders have been left off the archdiocese list could be because the cardinal only has direct control over diocesan priests. He said the Archdiocese deals with each religious order as groups, and the leader of each order is responsible for its members.
“All of the incidents happened decades ago, perpetrated by priests
whom neither I nor many younger clergy have ever met or talked to, because the priests were either dead or out of ministry before I came to Chicago as Archbishop,” said George in his letter. The
Chicago native was named archbishop in 1997, and became a cardinal
“Painful though publicly reviewing the past can be, it is part of the accountability and transparency to which the Archdiocese is committed,” George continued in the letter. He said that for more than 20 years, the archdiocese has reported all allegations of
sexual abuse to “the civil authorities:” and the Department of Children and Family Services.
According to the archdiocese statement “95 percent” of the 30 cases
date back before 1988, and 14 of the priests have since died. No priest with even one substantiated accusation of abuse of a minor serves in ministry in the archdiocese today, according to both
the cardinal and the archdiocese statement.
The Rev. Daniel McCormack, a native of Chicago’s West Lawn neighborhood, was sentenced to five years in prison after pleading
guilty in 2007 to abusing five children while he was parish priest at St. Agatha Catholic Church and a teacher at a Catholic school.
His was perhaps the most notorious case, and in 2008, the archdiocese agreed to pay $12.6 million to 16 victims of sexual abuse by priests, including him.
Files involving McCormack are not among the 6,000 pages of documents being released this week. SNAP criticizes George for
leaving them out, but they have been sealed by a judge because of
pending court cases.
McCormack, 45, grew up in St. Mary Star of the Sea Parish, 6424 S.
Kilburn Ave., Chicago, and went to the school, but the current pastor, Rev. John McDonnell, said parishioners don’t mention it to him, perhaps because most don’t even know of his connection to the area.
“The parish has really changed since McCormack lived here,” said
McDonnell, noting that his family has moved away, too.
Parishioners have not commented to him about the letter either, which he described as “extensive.” “I think it covered a lot,” he said. — City & Suburban News-Herald